The Hacker: When it comes to setting an example, you can write us off
Sunday 24 August 2008
The river that runs across the front of the first tee at the Montgomerie course at Carton House Golf Club in Ireland is also a county boundary. A notice advises that you drive off in County Meath and your ball lands in County Kildare.
Unless, that is, your ball cannot decide which county it would prefer to be in and drops into the water while dithering.
This was particularly embarrassing when it happened to me last week because I was captaining the Welsh team in the golf writers' home internationals. Friends and foes alike fell about laughing.
This is the 17th year we have staged this annual contest and it is well that those whose efforts come under our close scrutiny are not present to witness the golfing quality that most of us display under pressure.
We have regular tournaments among ourselves but it is in the home internationals that tribal rivalries ensure the contest is taken extremely seriously until the bar opens.
The event was started by Irish journalist and course designer Pat Ruddy in 1992 when we had a band, a flag-raising ceremony and a trophy bearing the name of the great Joe Carr.
Now it is not quite as formal but it has been staged at top venues throughout Great Britain and Ireland. This year was supposed to be Scotland's turn as hosts but there was a mix-up and we had nowhere to go until Carton House, who are 14 miles west of Dublin, took pity on us.
It was a kindly gesture, not least because Carton House is the 2008 European Golf Resort of the Year and you wouldn't be at all surprised at that. The centre-piece is a beautifully restored manor house that was once the country seat of the aristocratic Fitzgerald family and around it are draped two excellent courses, one designed by Mark O'Meara and the other by Colin Montgomerie.
Monty's course hosted the Irish Open in 2005 and 2006 and represents considerable revenge against all who have laughed at him. It is made more formidable by a devilish series of deep bunkers. Most of them were flooded and classed as ground under repair but taking a drop from them was not much relief due to the thickly grassed, sloping surrounds.
I led my team confidently into the opening round against Scotland on the O'Meara course in heavy rain. My partner Tim Glover and I actually took an early two-hole lead but finally succumbed 4 and 3.
Playing with Dave Facey against Ireland on the second day, we raced to a three-hole lead by the 10th hole despite flopping my first drive into the river but we lost on the 18th. On the third day, Facey and I were five up after six against the gnarled Fleet Street veterans Bob Cass and Jim Mossop and how they beat us on the last I'll never know – although an air-shot from Facey didn't help.
Even receiving the wooden spoon was painless thanks to the overwhelming hospitality we received at Carton House via their charming executive, Onya.
I thought I'd try a little friendly chat-up line and asked: "Is that your name I keep hearing from the Olympics – Onya Marks?"
"Onya bike," she said, with feeling.
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