Nice Jumper, by Tom Cox

Shocking confessions of a teenage golf fiend

By Martin Fletcher
Friday 27 December 2013 04:37

My perception of golfers is that they are pretty dull: no histrionics of the Roy Keane or Freddie Ljungberg variety for the likes of Faldo, Woosnam or Nicklaus. Icy self-possession seems a prerequisite for the mental discipline needed to club a small ball into a small hole a long, long way away.

But is golf cool? Former chicken decapitator Alice Cooper is an ardent player. Even sultan of style Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, furtively admits to 15 years of plodding down a fairway. However, according to Tom Cox, most golf clubs are filled "with right-wing bigots with no dress sense", the sort of caricature whose company is as welcome as your parents talking about sex.

It's during puberty that the wiring of the male psyche short-circuits and never quite reconnects. In his first teenage year, Tom Cox woke up one day and "for golf and me, it really was this simple: we found ourselves utterly, inexplicably in love". Nice Jumper is his apology for a youth misspent "amongst young conservatives sired by local textile magnates and county bridge champions". It is the Fever Putt of golf, an engaging tale of sporting obsession and adolescent fumbling for identity, of never quite reconciling Johnny Rotten tendencies with buttock-clenching golf etiquette.

Like a rash of acne, Cox's teenage years are inflamed: "Golf was life; life was golf. God was in the swish of a blade against freshly clipped turf". While most kids practice fornication and drunkenness to shock their parents, Cox was perfecting his swing and climbing the ranks of Cripsley Edge Golf Club. Much to his parents' consternation, he became a very good golfer.

It is axiomatic that, as an adolescent, what you've got you don't want. Tom Cox had parents who listened to the Ramones and Rolling Stones, a father who could recite Monty Python sketches, and a mother who would exhort him to "loosen up and get with it". Posters of existentially naked women leaning over sinks adorned the walls of his home. Little wonder Tom mutated into James Dean in plus-fours, his hormonal rush longing for the straitjacket of a blazer badge and a rule book as unbending as a two-foot putt.

That didn't stop him from "severely fucking about" in between winning junior championships and becoming a local golfing hero. His catalogue of club and equipment abuse, pranks of malicious ingenuity, "surprisingly expressive drunkenness" and frequent suspension are consistently entertaining and often extremely funny. It was when he turned up to tee-off in a T-shirt emblazoned with "Too Drunk to Fuck" that he realised his dedication was on the wane. His valediction came after sinking five pints of Red Stripe and breaking into the course to listen to the new Archers of Loaf album carrying a three-foot ghetto blaster and a sandwich bag full of dope.

"Is golf sort of like, really boring, Tom?" asks a girlfriend. "Well, yeah and no," he replies. In Cox's hands, very much the latter.

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