Day 1 – On the road
Here we are again. More precisely, here we are at a greasy spoon cafe on the way to Wales. It’s 10:30 and Chris and I have just arrived. Mark B, Phil, Mike N and Dave are already here, all looking fit as fiddles and raring to go – at least at their breakfasts. Disturbingly, Mark already has his shorts on. The rumour (started by him) about him having given up beer and unhealthy food already seems to be in doubt, seeing as he’s just ordered a big greasy fry-up. As have the rest of them, so Chris and I follow suit just to be polite. Mark B, Mike P and Julian arrive shortly afterwards and do likewise.
Mike N thoughtfully provides the morning’s entertainment when his chair collapses under him, but fails to remain in a heap on the floor long enough for me to take a photo, largely because I ‘m unable to suss out how the camera on my ‘phone works before he gets up and dusts himself off.
We finish our breakfasts and hit the road. Chris and I follow Mark B because apparently he knows the way, but he’s obviously been on an evasive driving course recently and is still practising, as he spends the next hour or so doing his best to lose us or get us killed. We survive and make it to the golf club in plenty of time.
Day 1 – Southerndown Golf Club
12:30 Into the bar at Southerndown Golf Club, where we meet up with Richard and Quentin. Surprise, surprise, no Alan yet, but in fairness there is over an hour to go ’til we tee off. Julian and I let the side down by ordering girlie drinks, but the others opt for beer. Less of a surprise, Mark goes for Guinness, whilst still keeping up the charade of having cut down recently.
13:40 On the first tee. The first four tee off, then it’s my turn. My one and only objective for today is to get the first shot away without embarrassment. I manage to hit a decent drive straight up the middle, so now I can relax and enjoy the golf. I follow it with two dreadful shots off the fairway, the second ending up perched half-way up a gorse bush. I end up with an 8. It can only get better.
On the course :
Phil tops a drive into a gorse bush about 20 yards in front of the tee. He finds it, takes a drop and hits his second shot. The ball goes up vertically about 18 inches and lands in exactly the same spot. He tries again. The same thing happens, although this time the ball travels a full 18 inches. Incapable of playing another shot because he’s laughing so much, he picks up his ball and records a ‘blob’.
My game improves temporarily, and I win the nearest the pin competition – with a proper shot this year.
Chris gives Richard some advice on how to play his approach shot, which he follows to the letter, hitting a superb shot and finishing about ten yards from the pin. Chris turns to Quentin on the other team and says “Ha, get inside that then”. So Quentin calmly hits his ball to within three feet of the hole.
Mike has a lapse in concentration and drives our buggy across a green. In fairness it was quite a big green and it would have taken ages to walk around it. He asks me not to tell anyone. Silly boy!
I hit a reasonable drive, if a bit short, off the 18th tee. The ball should be somewhere near the middle of the fairway but despite Mike and I searching for ages we just can’t find it and I have to record another blob. Sometimes I hate golf!
At the end of a somewhat up and down round, Mike and I finish our match four points up and our team ends the day three points in front.
In the bar :
Mark M is obviously taking his new diet very seriously. He appears to know the calorific value of every foodstuff you can imagine. Presumably that includes the four chocolate bars and the high energy snack bar he foolishly admitted to scoffing during today’s round. And the seven or eight pints of Guinness he got through tonight.
Chris airs his views on Crystal Palace (the football club as opposed to the big glass building). For some reason he seems to have a bee in his bonnet about them. Better still, as luck would have it, there’s a Crystal Palace fan within earshot, who suggests to Chris that he might like to talk about something else – or words to that effect. It’s a bit of a deja vu moment, although not quite as impressive as the night that he (and others) managed to upset a bar full of Welsh Manchester United fans (see ‘Live from the Abersoch Open 2011’).
Mike N and Phil sit huddled together for ages then disappear together, reappearing with a guitar that Mike has brought with him and the newly penned lyrics to ‘The Abersoch Blues’. We all cringe a bit when they hand around lyric sheets for the chorus, but we soon get into it and end up having a great time. Sadly, there were only about 30 verses so it all ended too soon. Luckily there was no-one else in the bar to hear us, apart from the bar staff who seemed vaguely amused. Unless, of course, they were just humouring us.
Day 2 – The Wales National Golf Club
On the course :
Richard invests in a course planner but, at £5 a throw, the rest of us are too tight to follow suit. It confirms what we suspected – as the name suggests, that this is not a course for the faint-hearted. It’s long and tight, with lots of water, trees and the odd fiendishly-placed bunker just in case it wasn’t difficult enough already. It will suit golfers who hit the ball long and straight but, unfortunately, I’m not blessed with either of those attributes, and neither are many of our party. A couple of them are capable of it, but it’s usually one or the other. This is certainly not a course to play with a hangover, which is a little unfortunate as approximately twelve of us appear to have one, to varying degrees.
Alan asks at the pro shop if they have any cheap caps. This elicits a look of distain and he’s pointed towards their display of ‘cheap caps’, which start at about twenty quid. He decides not to bother and, duly chastened, beats a hasty retreat.
Phil kisses his ball and says lovingly (if a bit wierdly) to it “stay with me”, then promptly put it in the lake. This turns out to be the start of a bit of a trend (more on this later).
On the second hole I tempt fate by commenting on the fact the ladies tee is only about six feet in front of the men’s and that even Jules and I, the shortest hitters in our four-ball, should have no trouble in hitting past it. Which we do. Sadly, though, and much to the amusement of the other three, I only manage to hit my ball about two feet past it, narrowly avoiding the time-honoured penalty which all male golfers will be familiar with.
Most of the greens have been grooved and dressed with sand, presumably to aid drainage (I’m sure there’s a correct term for this process but I don’t have the faintest idea what it’s called). On one of these greens, Mike N’s ball finishes on one of the grooves, which is perfectly in line with the centre of the hole. Mike is alleged to have scraped the sand from the groove before putting, straight as a die, into the hole. Shocking. If it’s true, the ‘hand of God’ incident may have a rival in the infamy stakes.
On one of the longer holes, the other three in our group all manage to lose their balls, leaving just me – who had somehow managed to hit a drive straight down the middle – with a chance of some points (which we badly need as we’re four down at this point). I play a decent enough second shot to leave a pitching wedge to the green – which I shank into the trees, and out of bounds, on the right. The others find this hilarious but my sense of humour bypass prevents me from joining in the merriment.
A few holes later I change my ball for a new one as the current one is looking a bit scuffed. I then proceed to lash the new ball deep into the trees on the right. I take the old ball out again and hit a provisional shot – into exactly the same place. Neither ball can be found.
At the end of today’s play, our team has moved to five points in front, with Mike and I somehow managing to turn around a four point deficit and finish with a win by three points.
In the bar :
Judging by the array of pink faces, its obvious that most of us didn’t bring any sun cream. This is largely because it’s been persisting it down for the last month and we all expected this weekend to be the same. But we were wrong and today’s weather was fabulous. All the evidence points to Julian being the only one who brought any (and not offering to share it), given that he’s completely white. In fairness, this is his natural hue, but no-one knows how he manages to sustain it. He does, after all, go out in daylight fairly often. Mike takes the prize for the pinkest face, with Dave coming in a fairly close second.
We have a ‘guess how many balls we lost today’ competition. We all pay a pound and guess the total number of balls that the twelve of us lost. We then all confess (in secret) how many we lost individually and tot them up. Go on, have a guess, but do bear in mind that this was quite a challenging course (see today’s opening paragraph). The answer is a staggering 67 balls, at an average of almost six per player (5.58333 recurring to be precise), with three people, who will remain nameless (not me, by the way), losing ten. At about £3 per ball (except for Mike P, who buys his from car boot sales for about £2 a dozen) this equates to just over £200-worth between us. Today would have been a good day to buy shares in Titleist.
Mike N attempts to justify his groove-scraping activity (dubbed “the finger of God” incident by Chris) as the perfectly legal “removing of loose impediments. Nice try Mike.
Day 3 – Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club
There are but two items on my shopping list today – sun cream and golf balls. I still have a pink face from yesterday and I suspect that the one ball left in my bag won’t be enough if the last two days are anything to go by. Unfortunately the pro shop is closed so I can’t buy either. Julian and Mike N come to my rescue, Jules with a dollop of his sun cream and Mike with a dozen balls from the huge stash he has in his car. As it happens I manage to complete my round without losing a ball, which is a minor miracle.
On the course :
On the first tee and for some reason I’m getting an inordinate amount of stick from certain members of the opposition, who seem to be suggesting that my play was a bit slow yesterday. I refute this entirely as I certainly wasn’t any slower than some others, who shall remain nameless, and, in any case, they seem to have forgotten that the eight-strong group of hackers two matches in front of us delayed us all by over twenty minutes at the start. They seem to have an issue with the fact that I occasionally chuck a bit of grass up in the air to check the direction and strength of the wind, which isn’t uncommon for us thinking golfers. Then they start giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls and one of them hands me a small tin with “a present for Oz” scrawled on he lid in marker pen. I open it to find some grass inside – they tell me it’s so that I don’t have to waste time bending down to get my own. Laugh? I nearly started!
Richard tells us that he’s feeling good this morning. He starts the day’s proceedings, topping his drive into the rough about twenty yards in front of the tee. After a brief search, he finds his ball and, with an audience of eleven, attempts to play out. He fails spectacularly and eventually picks up for a blob on the first hole.
Mike P asks “where’s my bag?”. There are four bags next to us, three blue and grey and one bright red one. Guess which one is Mike’s.
After chipping into a greenside bunker, I’m delighted to see a sign in it that says “bunker not in play”. I take my free drop then thin the ball across the green into a bunker on the other side.
Mark B plays a great chip shot onto the green from a horrible position in the rough, then drains a thirty foot put to keep the scores level. Mike and I are pleased for him and offer our congratulations. Mark then drives into the rough on the next hole – twice. Mike and I commiserate with him, as that’s only fair.
After a close contest Mike and I end our match two points up. Richard and Chris managed to claw back a five point deficit to end their match level and it’s the same result in the third match. This means that our team are two up for the day and we’ve won the trophy by a margin of seven points.
In the bar :
Chris owns up to a small faux pas in a previous year when he was one of the captains. He ordered some special Abersoch Open golf balls for everyone but they arrived with the name incorrectly spelt as “Abesoch”. Before calling the supplier to complain he checked the order form and, yes, it was him who had spelt it wrong.
The prize money is presented – £10 for each ‘nearest the pin’ winner and £10 each to the winning team members. I gratefully pocket my twenty quid and wonder if the professionals feel as chuffed when they pocket their winnings. More importantly, Mike P is then presented with the coveted Abersoch Open trophy.
And that’s it. All over for another year. Three great days of golf – as distinct from three days of great golf. But the entertainment value has been huge even if the quality has occasionally been a bit suspect.
I’ve managed to spend a whole weekend away with Richard without him even coming close to starting a fight, which is always a bonus – and anyway, that’s Chris’s job, and he’s managed to avoid it too. We’ve all enjoyed each other’s company and had a real laugh, as usual. Three fried breakfasts in as many days plus two huge dinners and copious quantities of beer have no doubt wrought havoc with my six-pack ambitions but it’s been another tremendously enjoyable weekend.
Planning for next year started about three minutes after the trophy was presented and no doubt the handicap negotiations will commence soon.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our exploits as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them. Normal service, Oz’s Blog-wise will, as they say, be resumed shortly.