The Hacker: Water torture and bunker mentality but headmaster's still a class act

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The Independent Online

Maurice was explaining to a hushed bar in the club on Thursday night how he had managed to take 18 on the eighth hole last weekend when one of the listeners exclaimed: "I would have packed it in there and then."

"Ah," I said, "That's why you'll never make a proper hacker." True hackers, I went on, are the bravest people in golf. They face up to the grim realities of their scores and do not flinch from any humiliation thus caused. And Maurice, a 28-handicapper, is a prime example of our breed, which is why he battled on and had a much better back nine which included a par on the 13th.

The fact that he was there at all is a credit to him. He had been due to partner Steve in a fourball better-ball medal, but Steve was taken ill at the last minute and couldn't play.

Maurice agreed to play on his own so that he could mark the card of the other pair, Andy and Lennie.

As Steve plays off 16, Maurice could have expected him to do most of the scoring, but the onus was now solely on him.

He bogeyed the first two holes, which wasn't bad, but then he had a 10 on the third, an 11 on the fourth and by the time he got to the eighth his game was in tatters.

The eighth is a short dog-leg par four with a water ditch running across the fairway about 180 yards from the tee.

Maurice squirted his drive into the trees on the left and put his second into the ditch. He took a penalty drop a yard or so back from the ditch and then plopped that into the water, too.

He took another drop, which made it five, and promptly found the ditch again. Happily, his eighth shot sailed over the water, but his ninth didn't manage to advance very far and his 10th landed in the greenside bunker.

By this time, Andy was keeping count for him, because Maurice had enough to do without having to worry about the arithmetic.

Andy stood on the edge of the bunker intoning "11, 12, 13, 14, 15", and on the count of 16 the ball splashed out and two shots later was in the hole.

After the ninth, and after a recount, Maurice had taken 83 strokes, which we think is something of a record. On the back nine he scored 58, which was an improvement of 25 shots, for a total of 141.

Maurice, who is headmaster of a primary school and a very popular member, will be delighted to hear that it is not the highest score recorded at the club. One member, who wasn't me incidentally, brought home a 145 several years ago.

As for his playing companions, they returned a better-ball score of 84, which wasn't all that clever, either. Andy plays off 26 and Lennie, who is known as "The Claw", which is rather an unpleasant nickname for someone who has arthritis, is another 28-handicapper.

Among those listening to Maurice's woes in the bar was Mike, a former member of our club who is now captain of another club in the area.

Mike is now in his seventies and used to be off a handicap of one but now plays off 17. Obviously a player's handicap will rise with age but the system helps, and with the maximum handicap at 28 players like Maurice and Lennie can't get any higher, while good players like Mike are steadily gaining on them.

It is a subject worth a serious debate one day.