The Hacker: Spirit of Bader inspires us to take wing in RAF foursomes

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The Independent Online

The theme this week is a famous Second World War flying ace, and you lot at the back can keep those remarks about playing better when legless and stumping round the course to yourselves. Recently I played in the RAF Club's golf day at Sonning (my father was in the force) and, predictably, failed to get off the ground (figuratively and pretty often literally) in the morning's individual competition.

But in the afternoon foursomes, with my skilful partner for the day, John, things took wing rather better. We found ourselves winners of a handsome and historic trophy and there, on the list of winners, was engraved the name D R S Bader, Esq. And, for someone who spent a considerable number of her pre-teen years constructing Airfix models of Hurricanes and Spitfires, to share a piece of silverware with Douglas Bader is quite a privilege.

Bader was arguably the world's most famous double amputee, having lost both legs at the age of 21 when he crashed his aircraft while attempting a low-altitude roll at the old Woodley airfield, coincidentally not much more than a couple of well-struck long irons from Sonning. It is the stuff of fact that became legend that he rejoined the RAF when the war broke out eight years later and performed heroically before being shot down and ending up in the infamous prisoner-of-war camp at Colditz Castle.

He shot down 22 enemy planes and one theory is that his disability actually aided his expertise; pilots often blacked out in high-G turns as blood drained from their brains to their legs. As Bader had none, he could remain conscious longer. Back in civilian life, his mantra was much as it had been as a flyer. "Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that," he once said. "Have a go at everything. Never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible."

For him, that included golf, and getting his handicap down to an extraordinary two. He was a tireless campaigner for the disabled, for which he was knighted; the charity founded by family and friends after his death 28 years ago, the Douglas Bader Foundation, carries on his work. Appropriately, its fundraisers include one involving the sport we all love, the annual club golfers' tournament, the Bader Cup.

Open weekend seems an appropriate moment to mention another prestigious competition, the Disabled British Open, due to be held in September at the East Sussex National. The beauty of golf, as Bader discovered, is that anyone can play; a perceived handicap does not preclude acquiring a handicap and at last year's inaugural event the category winners were four men with precious few legs and arms between them. If you want a real teenage golf sensation look no further than one of them, Alasdair Berry, who was born without hands and plays off seven.

Every minute we're out on a course we know we're fortunate to be there, even if at times it can seem a trifle trying and those of us considerably further down the competitive food chain can empathise with the struggles at St Andrews. On Thursday at Royal Cromer, faced with the nearest-the-pin on the 112-yard 17th and a howling crosswind, our particular fourball mentally adapted the challenge to nearest-the-green. Sorry, Douglas, sometimes you have to get real.

Tip of the week

No 58: the pot-bunker shot

We have already seen a lot of these in the last three days at St Andrews. This is not just for the pot-bunker, but any time you need loft to escape from a bunker, you need to be armed with the correct technique.

Take your most lofted club (a lob or sand wedge). Take your stance open to the target (aiming left for right-handed golfers) and open the club face to aim right of the target.

Position the ball inside your left heel, with most of your weight on your right foot and your hands behind the ball. Take a big, full swing along the line of your body and as you swing through impact, aim to take an inch of sand behind the ball, keeping the club face pointing to the sky.

You should see the ball come out of the bunker with plenty of loft and come down softly on landing.

Simon Iliffe, Head Professional, Bramley GC, Surrey.