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Monday, 21 July 2008

Age is no obstacle

The reaction to Greg Norman’s performance in the Open Championship has been nothing short of remarkable.

No, not the fact that he had to pay his ex wife $103m in his divorce settlement but that he is now a member of the golfing senior brigade.

He led this top class field a merry dance from day one and only faltered at the very end. That’s just not on, is it? He is, after all, 53 years old. You can’t play golf like that when you are a coffin dodger.

I’m a fraction older than Norman, just a fraction, mind, and it really annoys me when others, who are a tad younger, categorise me.

‘He’s old, you know’. You can tell by the way they look at you, or by the way they talk in your presence.

Sometimes they talk as if you’re not there.But Norman has made sure the rest of the players at Royal Birkdale definitely knew he was there.

He has handled the course and the conditions much better than many of his younger contemporaries and, in the process, put a lot of them to shame.

With people like him in our corner we might just conquer the doubters.

So what if he didn’t win this great championship, or if he never wins another tournament.

He has got himself a new wife, someone called Chris Evert, a former champion of some ball game or other herself, and he has been prancing around the golf course like a dog with two tails.

And long may it last.

A Wright treat

I’ve never been a great fan of Ian Wright. His over the top antics always seemed to annoy me.
He always appeared too excitable and sometimes I couldn’ t work out where he was coming from.
But I’ve changed my mind. The former Arsenal player, who is up at Royal Birkdale working for Talk Sport, was a treat to watch and listen to as he enjoyed some banter with the fans at the side of the practice putting green
The discussion was about would Ronaldo stay at Man United. In Wright’s opinion, it was no coincidence that he’s just had his operation now.
It means that he will miss the beginning of the season and it will give Fergie the opportunity to see how they do without him.
If they struggle, then he doubts he will let him go but if they do well, then he will grab the cash and say cheerio. Anyway, that’s Wright’s opinion.
As they were talking, a young journalist asked if there was any chance of a word for the local paper. Wright said, yes, sure, but before he could say a word, his agent/manager, who was sitting next to him, said ’no way, he’s contracted to the Sun’.
Wright pleaded with him to be allowed to say something but his boss just said ’no way’. Wright then apologised to the youngster.
On the other end of the scale is Gary Lineker, who didn’t have a minute for the kids who kept calling his name.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Golf courses and high-heels don't mix!

The trees don't grow very high at Birkdale.

And who can blame them.

With the wind gusting at 30 miles an hour and the rain coming side on, even the birds walk.

The last two years the Open Championship has started in a virtual moonsoon, the trouble today was that it was also extremely cold.

I stood at the side of the 9th green and I could see mine and everyone else's breath. I had to remind myself this is the middle of July, the height of summer.

And I was amazed how some people came dressed. There were a 1000 different varieties of umbrellas.

Every colour you can name. Spotted, pretty ones and big loud ones with company names emblazoned across them.

But a lot of them had one theme in common, they were useless because they had been blown inside out.

The club golfers had come prepared. They were the ones dressed head to foot in waterproofs.

Then there were the women, the ones who came for the social scene and to be seen.

Wearing nice summer gear which now had become see-through. There were some well worth a second look but others, well it was just too much information.

And what about the ones wearing high-heels. Now I’m not a male chauvinist and I’m all for giving women the benefit of the doubt, but there are sometimes when I struggle.

Even on a dry, sunny day, golf courses and high-heels just don’t mix. Still, it takes all sorts and, when all is said and done, we can’t do with out them - women that is.

So, for their sakes, I hope the weather improves big-time.

Grumpy Old Man meets Fat Controller

"This is the Grumpy Old Man speaking. Me and the Fat Controller are in charge this week.

"I would like to ask our passengers to take note of the blue surface with the white fleks which stretches the length of the carriage. That is called the floor.

"The raised objects either side of the floor are called seats.T hey are for putting your bum on. The floor is for putting your feet on. If we see anyone sitting on the floor with their feet on the seats, then we will have to ask Thomas the Tank to sort them out."

The Scouse wit on the other end of the tannoy on the train to Southport certainly caught the attention of everyone heading for the Open at Royal Birkdale.

It lifted an already excited bunch of passengers and all behaved exactly as he asked them to.

Security is tight for this year’s event but it makes you wonder where they get some of the security staff from.

The cuffs of his jacket on the young lad who checked me through came somewhere between his wrists and his elbows and if it wasn’t for his ears he woul d have been chewing on the peak of his cap.

Still, they are doing a good job and everything is moving along freely for now. It promises to be a good week.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

How many men does it take to make a hole three inches in diameter and about six inches deep?

Well, if they are from the Royal and Ancient, eight.

One to hold the tape, one to press the contraption which makes the hole into the ground and six to make sure they are doing it right.

They must have been higher up the ladder than the two labourers. They had their hands in their pockets, a sure sign they must be bosses.

It was tough going on the 17th green. The wind was blowing pretty strong an d one of them had to take a hand out of his pocket to hold the other end of the tape.

It’s a very concise science making a hole in a green, especially if it’s one of the Major championships.

The another two men arrived. One was carrying a stimpmeter to tell you how fast the ball rolls on the green.

By now, David Duval had played up to the green. All work stopped. Now we had eight men with their hands in their pockets. Duval came and went and it was back to work for our eight intrepid heroes.

The boy with the stimpmeter was first to react. He set it down in the middle of the green and rolled a ball down the ramp. The other six looked at each other. After about a dozen rolls down the ramp ,they all nodded in agreement - this is where the hole is going to be tomorrow.

It took about an hour to make the decision. If only they had asked Lee Westwood. He thinks the whole bloody green should be dug up anyway.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Guided by Moses

As we set off up the lane, the driver said: "You must be a very important man, sir, cos no-one is allowed in here unless he’s a president of something."
I could almost taste the excitement of what was coming. At the front of the Augusta clubhouse I jumped out of the taxi, straight into the locker-room where, the day before, the champions of the world had been changing their shoes.
It was an eerie feeling as I emerged onto the course. Gone were the 50,000 fans who were there the day before, now it was just deathly silence as I prepared for the greatest moment of my golfing career.
Didn’t anyone care, why was no one here to watch.
"Sir this is your caddy," said the starter. "His name is Moses."
I remember thinking, he parted the Red Sea. No problems with the water then.
"Help yourself to a card and pencil," said the starter. Fool that I was, I took just one pencil and one card.
Moses, the best part of 60 and dressed in a pristine white overall, picked up my little black bag. "You English," he said. Not a good start, ‘Irish’, I spat back. "Never mind," he said.
To be fair, we gelled like Mickelson and Bones as I scrambled my way round the course.
I relied on his advice on the greens, big-time. When he told me to hit the ball ten yards right of the hole, I did.
I finished with an 82, a nett 76.
The course was about 600 yards shorter than it was the day before but, that’s just between me and you.
Still, it’s something to tell my grandkids – and I have done, numerous times.
The reply is nearly always the same. "Where did you say you played, Granddad?"

Monday, 14 April 2008

A letter from Hootie

AS the Westwood contingent crossed to the 10th tee, I had another matter on my mind. On entering the foyer to the Media Centre, there were journalists scurrying about looking for a line, a word even, that would give them an exclusive the next day. “When are they doing the ballot,” I asked one of the Marthas behind the reception. “It’s already been done,” she replied, pointing to the wall behind reception. “The list of names is on the matrix.” I had wondered why everyone appeared to be looking up there. Now I knew. As I watched the revolving list of names move down the board, my mouth fell open. There it was, the number 101, with the name Eamonn Gavigan alongside it. Exhilaration, anticipation, trepidation. It was all rolled into one. I had to calm myself down. Not only was I on my first visit to the Augusta National, I was now going to play it. Who can ring, who can I tell? I wished my dad was alive. He would have loved this. “Our boy played Augusta, you know,” I could just hear him. There I was, in a crowded room, but on my own. I rang the office. I think the reply was along the lines, ‘You jammy bastard’. I approached the desk. “What do I do now?” I asked one of the many Marthas. “Can I see your card?” she asked. “101, that’s correct, here’s your invitation.” I struggled to open the envelope. There it was, an invitation from Hootie Johnson, the chairman of the Augusta National, inviting me to play his little ole course. Now, who was I to refuse an invitation like that.