my own goal Mike Hall

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The recently appointed captain of the Wales side going to the World Cup in South Africa recalls some occasions when he and his international colleagues have tried, and sometimes failed, to conquer another sport

A LOT of rugby players are golfers and I am known to play a bit myself. I have to say, though, that I am absolutely useless, but quite keen. A couple of weeks ago, a 72-year-old man with a replacement hip beat me down in Porthcawl and it was then, 10 years into my golf career, that I knew I had to have a lesson. Anyway, I've just had that first lesson and I'm feeling encouraged - I think I've cracked it.

Occasionally I have played in those celebrity golf tournaments and I hate them. I won one once playing with Jonathan Griffiths, but on the whole I find it terribly nerve-wracking, having your name announced and then going out on to the tee and having to hit the ball. I'd prefer to run out and play rugby in front of 50,000 people than hit a golf ball in front of two.

Anyway, last summer I was on a pre-season training camp with Cardiff in Jersey. The camp had been set up by Peter and Stan Thomas, the South Wales businessmen, and when we were there, it was arranged that we would have a game of golf with Ian Woosnam, who has always been a big idol of mine. It was supposed to be myself and Woosie against Gareth Davies and Peter Thomas. It wasn't exactly a celebrity game, but quite a crowd gathered anyway. Unfortunately, I had broken my wrist on Wales's South Seas tour, so I was in plaster and could not play. Mike Rayer stepped in for me and I ended up as his caddie.

We got off and played the first three or four holes very seriously. Woosie was smashing the ball everywhere, playing fantastically, and Mike was really quite nervous. I was picking his clubs for him, we were throwing grass to test the wind and all that sort of thing.

We got to the fifth, and he asked me for a nine-iron, so I gave him the club. He struck the ball absolutely perfectly, it hit the back of the green and went straight through into the bushes at the back. Woosie asked: "What club did you take?" He replied that he had taken a nine-iron and Woosie said: "No, no, that couldn't have been," and he looked at it - I'd given him a six and had glanced at it upside down. That's where the Rayer-Hall partnership fell apart: he started swearing at me and I swore back and said that he could carry his own bloody clubs. Everyone watching us was dumbstruck. At the next tee, I stood about 200 yards away from him and he had to play the whole hole with a seven-iron because I wouldn't give him another club. As it happens, Mike played really well, I think because he was so nervous. He has a handicap of 24, but that day he played to 10 and won the match.

I've seen all sorts of golf from my rugby colleagues. I've seen Jonathan Davies play a few times and he is hopeless but thinks he's good. Ieuan Evans is also hopeless, absolutely hopeless, and thinks he's brilliant. He just smashes everything and as long as he hits it hard, it doesn't matter where it goes. And he cheats as well: I've seen him play a ball from a field and then say that his ball wasn't out of bounds.

I played once with Gavin and Scott Hastings, both very good golfers, when on a tour of Scotland. The idea was that I would share clubs with Scott Hastings, but the trouble was that I wasn't allowed on the course because I didn't have my own bag. Scott then ran back to the car and got a bin-bag, we put a few clubs in that and got away with it. At least rugby players are resourceful, if unreliable, on the course.