The Agreeable World Of Wallace Arnold: 'Tis a desperate man who takes the Duchess hostage

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The Independent Online
A GRIM week for those of us in the international golfing fraternity; a very grim week indeed.

The news came through to the Wentworth clubhouse in the afternoon of Wednesday last. As vice-chairman, I was entertaining recent members with my reminiscences of driving off from the sixth, using my number seven on the eighth, my six on the ninth and my eight on the tenth, only to find that by the eleventh I was relying on my five - with a little help from my four.

Needless to say, they were all roaring with delight at this word-picture of a very special game of golf. And so it was all set to be a thoroughly enchanting afternoon when an ashen-faced Major Ronald Ferguson rushed into his clubhouse. "Anyone seen the General?" he asked, his voice a-quiver with emotion.

"Augusto?" I repeated, "now let me see." In fact, I had had cause to caution the poor fellow not half-an- hour before for attempting to bury his opponent head-down in a bunker. "That's not the British way, Augusto," I said. "In fact, here at Wentworth, we tend to shake the winner by the hand and buy him a drink. In fact, Rule 15 sub-section (c) expressly forbids the torturing, kidnap or wanton murder of fellow golfers other than with the written approval of the management committee." He replied that he had indeed gained that approval, but when I asked to see it, he blustered, patting all the pockets of his uniform and saying he must have mislaid it.

"If my guess is right," I said to Major Ronald, "he should have just finished on the eighteenth and will be striding into this very room in 10 seconds."

Sure enough, in 10 seconds, the outer door to the clubhouse swung open and the now-familiar sound could be heard of spurs scraping against the parquet in the hallway. "A magnificent victory!" said General Augusto Pinochet as he entered the bar-room. "My opponent is broken - broken like a twig."

I suddenly realised he was talking about that much-loved all-round family entertainer, Mr Bruce Forsyth, who had reluctantly agreed to take him on. Earlier, I had rescued Forsyth from the bunker - but what had become of him now? Before I had had time to ask, Major Ronald had stepped forward, put a comforting hand on the General's shoulder, and, one military man to another, had broken the news. "Rotten luck, Herr General," he said, "Just heard they're extraditing you to Spain. Let's hope it's nothing serious." I turned to see how the General had taken the news - but he was gone. "Good Lord," I said, "he dashed off pretty fast. I daresay he must be cut up about something."

Major Ronald and I finished our drinks and rushed out. In the distance, we saw a golf buggy bearing the unmistakable silhouette of General Pinochet spinning towards the ninth hole. "My God," I murmured, "that's where His Royal Highness The Duke of York is playing Little Ronnie Corbett in a friendly."

The Major and I ran headlong out on to the course and commandeered a passing buggy from senior member Mr Frank Bough. "Follow that buggy, Bough!" I yelled, and the three of us took off at top speed.

Alas, by the time we arrived the scene was perilous. General Pinochet had holed up in a bunker. "Don't come a step further, Wallace!" he screamed as I approached. "I have the Duchess Fergie with me - and I will stop at nothing." Looking down, I noticed that the Duchess's head was just visible above the sand.

I knew instinctively that no one would take the Duchess of York hostage who was not a very desperate man. I looked across at The Duke of York. He seemed to be taking it very well. In fact, he was just teeing off for the tenth. "Oddly enough, these little upsets can sometimes serve to aid one's concentration," he remarked to Little Ronnie Corbett, who chuckled good-naturedly.

And this has been the situation since five-ish on Wednesday: the Duchess neck-high in the bunker and the General looming over her, demanding pounds 40,000 and a passage to Chile. We've had a whip-round at the club-house to save the Duchess. So far we've raised pounds 4.25, including a pounds 2 B&Q voucher from the Duke - not a bad effort in just four days. We're aiming for a tenner by Christmas: all contributions welcome.