The Hacker: Turnberry Tom showed us the old guard can still be hip

Peter Corrigan
Sunday 26 July 2009 00:00 BST

Old hackers everywhere are still creaking with pride in the reflected glory of Tom Watson's triumph at Turnberry last weekend. I know he didn't win but let's not bother with trifling details.

The 2009 Open will be remembered as his and his alone. No offence to Stewart Cink but if Tom, at the age of 59, hadn't stepped into the role as sensation machine once Tiger Woods had missed the cut, it would have been a pretty hum-drum affair.

It ranks as one of the mightiest sporting efforts and, inevitably, has drawn golf's critics out of the undergrowth. This proves it's an old man's game, they gloat.

An old man's game? They don't know the half of it. If Watson was a member of our club he'd almost be in the junior section. Certainly he would be comfortably under the average age and wouldn't yet qualify for the veterans. We have nine members over 90, at least one of whom plays twice a week.

The membership profile at most clubs is top heavy in the wrinkly department and they would probably struggle financially otherwise, in their bar takings in particular.

Many clubs have had to reduce or cancel the generous discount they used to give the over-65s because there are far more of them than the 30 and 40-year-olds with young families and mortgages who struggle to pay the annual subscriptions.

Tom also provided another reason why aging golfers are flourishing. Countless artificial hips would have been twitching in time to the one Tom had fitted an astounding nine months ago.

If it wasn't for the skill of the hip and knee replacement surgeons our courses wouldn't be anything like as busy, and Tom is a joint or two behind many old golfers.

At our club, Eirian has paid five visits to the operating table and has received three hips (one a replacement of a replacement) and two knees and still plays a mean game off 20. His wallet contains the address of a scrap dealer next to his organ donor card.

The assistance of medical science is part of the reason that old golfers are staying active longer. And even when the legs go, the golf buggy will carry you on for years.

Tom, of course, has the advantage of having someone else carry his clubs for him but what really separates him from his contemporaries is that he is a golfing wonder. If the vast majority of ancient hackers were confronted with the Ailsa course from The Open tees they would have to give up the game forthwith.

It would be impossible to tackle those carries or weave a way through that fearsome rough without losing a wheelbarrow full of balls.

Can he do it again? He'll continue to do well on the Seniors tour but Turnberry, alas, is the one major course that he finds ideal and even he will have packed up before The Open returns there.

But the gallant Mr Watson has already done us a power of good and what unites all us old fogeys is the indomitable spirit that drives us onward and the sad realisation that, whatever it is we're pursuing, some younger sod is likely to nip in and nick it at the end.

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