The agreeable world of Wallace Arnold: How the General got tetchy at the tricky third hole

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The Independent Online
GOLF! I have spent many a happy hour parading up and down fairways in my snazzy plus-fours, my multi-coloured V-neck and my two-tone shoes with the saucy little flaps. Sometimes, I even bring my clubs and tees along and enjoy a bit of a knock-about while I'm at it. It's a glorious game, perfect for unwinding. With one well-timed swing, you can send that little ball - what? - ten, fifteen, sometimes even twenty yards, right into that little clump of trees to the right. With a smile and a wink, bidding your opponent good luck as he shimmies into the distance, you saunter genially over to the little clump and you take aim and swing and you take aim and swing and you take aim and swing and then you hammer the ground with your club and then you hammer it again and again until you're blue in the face and the divots are flying and the trees are cracking from the blows and your club breaks and there are tears pouring from your eyes and you're saying mummy mummy mummy why did I have to grow up I hate it I hate it I hate it and nineteen shots later you've only just reached the green and your opponent is smiling in that ghastly smug way of his saying: "Came a bit of a cropper, did we, ha ha!" and you want to wrap your number 9 around his neck dig a six-foot hole in the bunker and leave his corpse for the groundsman to disinter five months later in a state of decomposition.

Excuse me. I do beg your pardon. Chin up, Wallace, calm down. Deep breath. All better. As I was saying, golf is the most marvellous game for unwinding. My life-long addiction to the game brought about my promotion last year to the position of Vice-President of the Wentworth Golf Club, and it is about this that I wish to expand this morning.

On Thursday last, I was enjoying a drink in the clubhouse with two of our most eminent members - Major Ronald Ferguson and that marvellous entertainer Mr Bruce Forsyth - when a swarthy fellow with a well-trimmed moustache strode up and placed a black-gloved hand on my shoulder. It took me a second to twig who it was.

"Augusto!" I exclaimed, "Long time no see. How's tricks?" It must have been six or seven years since I had shared a late-night cheese fondue and a little target practice with Augusto Pinochet, but he honestly didn't look a day older.

"Wallace," he said, in his deep stentorian tones, offset with a marked Latin-American twang, "I wish a hush-hush word, no?"

I led him into the snug where, beneath gilt-framed photographs of Horatio Bottomley winning the Wentworth Open in 1922, Pinochet asked me if he might apply for temporary membership. "I have recent moved into area, Wallace," he said. "Is my deepest wish to hit some ball before I depart for beloved homeland."

I told him we would welcome such a distinguished gentleman as himself, and in his case we would be only too happy to waive the "dubious nationality" clause that had hampered the membership prospects of lesser individuals. "You not regret this, Wallace," he said and, dipping into his briefcase, brought out two gold bars.

"Quite unnecessary, Augusto," I said, placing them in the pockets of my plus-fours. "Quite unnecessary."

At the crack of dawn the next day, the four of us were out on the links, practising our swings. "Nice to see you, Augusto - to see you nice!" Forsyth had said to the General by welcome, but his catchphrase was returned, alas, with only a blank stare. Nevertheless, the game commenced at the appointed time, myself and the General pitted against Forsyth and Major Ronald.

All went well until we came to tackle the notorious third hole. The General drove hard to the left, and ended up in the middle of the bunker. "Whoop- seeey!" joked Forsyth, attempting to make light of the proceedings. But Augusto was not amused. "How you mean whoop-seeey?" he said. He then removed a bullwhip from the upper compartment of his trolley and thrashed poor Forsyth around the legs with it, forcing us to finish the round as a threesome, leaving Forsyth in pain on the 3rd.

As Vice-Chairman, this puts me in a pickle. Do I overlook it? Or do I throw the rulebook at him? On the other hand, he might make a first-rate General Manager. The jury remains out.