The idea of a racehorse bearing the name of one of golf's greatest benefactors may not have occurred to many, but the notion proved popular during a convivial evening last weekend.
The benefactor is Dr Frank Stableford, inventor of the brilliant scoring system that is played throughout the world, and those who wish his name to adorn a noble beast of the turf are members of The Glamorganshire and Wallasey golf clubs who meet every year to honour his memory. Cheery relationships between golf clubs are an integral part of the game's social scene and many date back well over a century. The link between The Glamorganshire and Wallasey clubs is only 10 years old, but its roots go deep into the game's fabric.
Dr Frank was a member of both clubs. It was at Wallasey in 1931 that his system first took flight, and they rightly declare themselves the "Home of Stableford". But when researching Glamorganshire's records while writing the club's centenary history in 1990 I came across a yellowing newspaper cutting dated October 1898 stating Dr Stableford had asked members to try out a new points system.
There it was in black and white – the embryonic Stableford system. What happened in the 33 years between its first outing and its perfection at Wallasey nobody knows, but the doctor was rather busy. He was an army surgeon and served in the Boer War, the campaign against the Mad Mullah of Somaliland and the First World War before moving from South Wales to Merseyside, where he became one of Wallasey's famous members.
In 1998 we held a centenary re-enactment of the first Stableford competition and Wallasey sent a party to play and help us celebrate the occasion, which turned out to be inexcusably riotous. We enjoyed it so much we have repeated the jollity with reciprocal visits every year.
Our sole purpose is to honour a man blessed by hackers everywhere. An engaging character, Dr Frank drove a yellow Rolls-Royce and wore a polka-dot bow tie.
We can't run to a Rolls each but we wear bow ties, incorporating our club crests, at our annual get-together and two Wallasey members, Paul and Anton, have produced asplendid trophy of a bow tiecast in bronze for us to play for.
The matches invariably go to the home side, because the visitors are handicapped by the hospitality. Anton, a former captain, is one of a crowd of Wallasey members who had the idea of buying a racehorse and running it in Dr Frank's name. But the powers that be atthe club decided it wouldn'tbe appropriate.
However, it is too good a project to let die so we've decided on a joint Wallasey-Glamorganshire venture under the name of the Bow Tie Syndicate to buy and run a horse in the good doctor's name.
My only hope is that it fares better than a horse I own along with four golfing friends. His name is Mister Chatterbox and, despite one or two near misses, he has yet to oblige.
Having golfing owners may be the problem. He has acquired such a strong sense of etiquette that whenever he gets in sight of the winning post he starts waving other horses through.