Tales from the Abersoch Open 2013
Well, a promise is a promise, so here it is at last. The long wait is finally over. If you didn’t read my last blog you’ll no doubt be wondering what on earth I’m on about so, just for you, I’ll summarise…
Back in May I played in the now famous Abersoch Open golf tournament. In case its fame has somehow eluded you, have a quick look at one or more of these blogs and you’ll get the picture : “The Abersoch Open“; “Live from the Abersoch Open 2011“; “A prelude to the Abersoch Open 2012“; “Live from the Abersoch Open 2012“; “Open season“; and “An Open question“. Unlike in previous years and, to the frustration of one or two die-hard Abersoch fans (yes, it seems they do exist), for one reason or another I didn’t get around to blogging about this year’s exploits. So a couple of weeks ago I apologised profusely and promised to dig out my notes and attempt to construct something vaguely meaningful from them. So here goes.
I’ll spare you the pre-Abersoch e-mail exchanges, largely because much of the content is either unintelligible or unpublishable, but suffice it to say that most of it revolved around the ever more ludicrous reasons why handicaps should be increased. For the first time in Abersoch history, the possibility of a formal appeal reared its head, amidst concerns over the consistency of the handicap calculation method used for each team. Whilst the official Council Of National Golf Unions methodology was clearly used for calculating the handicaps of our team, it seems obvious, even to the layman, that the less well-known Council Of National Golf Banditry system was employed for calculating those of the opposition. I, of course, accepted my allotted handicap with dignity and good grace, not being one to complain (much).
You will, I’m sure, by now have a sense of what the Abersoch Open means to those involved. So important an event in the golfing calendar is it that the night before I actually cleaned my golf shoes. Rumour has it that, true to form, Julian got someone else to clean his, but that’s another story.
Equally committed to the cause, Richard spent the previous week practising his high-fives and hand-punches, which he identified as the weakest part of his team’s game last year – apart from the driving, chipping and putting that is, which he plans to practice in the two minutes before we tee off.
Day 1 – Builth Wells Golf Club
On the road :
The big day finally dawns and twelve finely-honed athletes awake with a sense of eager anticipation. Eleven of us actually get up and began our journeys, but I’ll come to that in a moment. Chris arrives bright (at least as bright as Chris ever gets) and early at Chez Oz. The week before, Chris and I, travel companions for the last seven years, had wracked our brains in an effort to recall whose turn it was to drive this year, finally conceding defeat with Chris manfully volunteering to do it to spare us both any further mental anguish.
As in previous years, about two thirds of the party meet for breakfast on the way. Now I don’t know about you but, even taking into consideration my issues with pretty much anything involving the internet and the fact that I’m probably the most directionally challenged person I know, I can still read a map and twig that twenty-five minutes into a two-and-a-bit hour journey isn’t quite half way, but I decide that discretion is the better part of valour and only mention it two or three dozen times during the weekend. In any case, as in previous years, it’s good to renew old acquaintances, begin the process of team building and commence our strict dietary regime – not to mention the serious business of mickey-taking. Also as in previous years, Mark M’s claims of being leaner, fitter and off the beer and junk food are taken with a huge pinch of salt (not to mention the massive dollop of ketchup) when his super-size full English breakfast with double everything arrives. And, surprise, surprise, he has his shorts on already.
Colesterol-loading (a bit like carb-loading for marathon runners, only more enjoyable) and round one of the banter concluded, we hit the road and arrive at our first destination – Builth Wells Golf Club in the heart of Wales.
Houston we have a problem. Paul has failed to turn up due to a teeny-weeny little faux pas – the faux pas in question being the fact that three days ago he got back from two weeks golfing in the States with Mike N, having neglected to mention the Abersoch weekend to his wife – who, by all accounts, wasn’t best pleased. To our bewilderment, Paul selfishly opted for saving his marriage over supporting his Abersoch buddies, leaving us in the lurch. Can you believe that?
Seeing as Paul was standing in for Alan, we now need a stand-in for the stand-in. A few frantic calls are made but, unsurprisingly, at such short notice, we draw a blank. Discussions start in earnest about how we can have a decent competition with one team of six and one of five. The captains decide that one person on the depleted team (ours) will be chosen each day and their scores will count twice. Oh joy, today it’s me. There are two ways to look at this – the first being that if I play well we could build an unassailable lead on day one. Then there’s the other one. No pressure then, Oz.
Back to Alan. He’s been a stalwart of the Open since 1992, turning up religiously, albeit usually late, in spite of the fact that most years his wedding anniversary has fallen during the Abersoch weekend (now that’s commitment – Paul, please take note!). This year, for the first time in many years, it didn’t, but Alan can’t come out to play as he has to work. Just because his business partner is on holiday. In fairness to Alan, the Abersoch dates were changed at relatively short notice, but what’s wrong with just closing the business for the weekend? Another example of skewed priorities.
On the course :
Now, this is where the lag between the event at the blog comes home to roost. Because my notes for this part of the weekend aren’t exactly what you’d call comprehensive – either because we were all utterly brilliant and no-one did anything stupid or because I just didn’t write much down. In fact, all that my notes do suggest is that a) I personally was about as far from utterly brilliant as it’s possible to get, being incapable of hitting a decent drive; or fairway shot; or chip; or sink a putt (in fact, if you’d given me a banjo and a cow’s derrière to aim at it’s almost certain I’d have missed it) and b) the day’s lost ball tally was twenty-five, which, compared to previous years, wasn’t half bad.
My team finish the day several shots down. Your guess is as good as mine as to how many shots as I didn’t write that down either. Suffice it to say that my score counting twice didn’t really help all that much.
In the bar :
The conversation turns to tales of Abersoch past, which include the years that :
– One of the Mike’s (I’m not sure which Mike but no doubt someone will enlighten me before too long) sorted out the accommodation and booked double rooms instead of twins. Team building taken a little too far methinks;
– Alan did the organising but forgot to book any golf and was “encouraged” in no uncertain terms to be first in the queue outside the pro shop at five am the next morning in order to book some tee times;
– Someone took a video camera to record events for posterity. The footage included Alan mooning at the camera. All very childish and highly amusing in the bar at two in the morning, but not quite so amusing a few months later when the camera owner’s relatives sat down to watch the video of the christening they’d just been to. Yes, you’ve got it. Having roomed with Alan for seven out of my eight Abersochs I’ve had the misfortune to see bits of him that others probably haven’t and I can tell you I feel sorry for those christening guests;
– The one and only Abersoch hole-in-one (at least so far) was witnessed. Steve, who had only ever played one round of golf before his first Abersoch, borrowed some clubs and gamely had a go. By all accounts he was absolutely dreadful (or words to that effect) until the fourteenth hole. He hit his first decent shot of the round, which bounced on the front of the green, meandered around the edge for a while, then headed straight for the hole and dropped in, much to Bob’s annoyance – particularly when Steve enquired “did anyone see where it went?”! At the end of the round, when someone pointed out that he was supposed to buy everyone in the clubhouse a drink he rapidly threw his clubs into his car and roared off back to the hotel.
Surprise, surprise, we ended up still in the bar way past our bedtimes after several glasses of wine. And I’d meant to get an early night too. Some people never learn.
Day 2 – Cradoc Golf Club
At breakfast there’s one of those dreadful hotel toasters – you know, the ones with the conveyor belt that you put your bread on then wait for ages only for your bread to eventually reappear either completely untoasted or burnt to a crisp. I duly stand in line, deposit my bread, wait the obligatory aeon then hear the clunk as my toast appears. Except it doesn’t. I look everywhere but there’s no sign of it. So I try again, with exactly the same result. A search party forms and finally my two pieces of minimally-toasted toast are spotted on the floor behind the counter. I give up and retire gracefully to eat my now lukewarm bacon and eggs, much to the amusement of my so-called friends.
On the course :
My team-mate Mike and I try to focus on today’s game plan but find it difficult to concentrate on anything other than trying to steer our buggy, which seems to have a mind of its own. It was quite clearly made by the same company that makes supermarket trolleys and the steering wheel doesn’t seem to be connected to the wheels, making for some interesting manoeuvres over the undulating terrain. I narrowly avoid tipping Mike out of the side on more than one occasion, but we manage to complete the round relatively unscathed.
Highlights of the morning include :
– Watching a crow attacking a buzzard in flight. It’s quite an amazing sight. The crow flies full-tilt into the buzzard, knocking it sideways, then wheels around for another go, repeating the manoeuvre until the buzzard gives up and flies off. Presumably the crow has chicks nearby and is protecting them from the buzzard but, whatever the reason, it’s jolly impressive. Much more impressive than the golf anyway, which probably goes without saying.
– Richard exclaiming earnestly to his playing partner Chris “that’s a good shot”, which is followed seconds later by a loud “thunk” as Chris’s ball hits a tree and drops like a stone into the undergrowth, never to be seen again.
– Mike N lashing his drive on the eighteenth hole out of bounds. Not just a bit out of bounds either, but onto the road that runs parallel to the fairway. And not only onto the road, but onto (or at least against) the number forty bus to Brecon.
– Also on the eighteenth, Phil holing his second shot on the par four hole for a two, net zero and six points! This pretty much seals our fate, as Phil is on the other team. We maintain our dignity and applaud his achievement, although the polite clapping is almost drowned out by cries of “bandit” and “twenty-eight handicap, my @#%&!”. The anticipated emergency meeting of the handicap committee fails to materialise and we return to the clubhouse, half of us jubilant and the other half a tad less so, given that the difference in the scores is now fifteen. Looks like its all over bar the shouting. And the drinking, of course.
The lost ball count for the day is a measly seven, bringing the total to thirty-two.
In the bar :
Mark turns up for dinner in his shorts. Come to think of it nobody’s seen him in anything else for the past two days. Phil talks us through his six-pointer again… and again… and again…
We decide to go out on the town after dinner and explore the delights of Llandrindod Wells. We make it as far as the pub two doors along from the hotel and stay there ’til chucking-out time. A couple of us switch from beer to wine as we don’t all have hollow legs like Mark, but it seems that this establishment isn’t a regular haunt for the local wine connoisseurs. Clues to this include the fact that a) they only have three wine glasses so some of us have to use small beer glasses, b) the wine list isn’t exactly extensive, the choices being either red or white, c) the fact that it comes in those titchy little bottles you get on ‘planes and trains and d) we got several strange looks, particularly from the women, who were all drinking pints.
Day 3 – Llandrindod Wells Golf Club
On the course :
We have it all to do today. With a deficit of fifteen points to make up, our team has to play like, well bandits, if we’re to stand any chance at all. We fail miserably. Our opponents have, it seems, cornered that particular market.
My one on-course highlight for the day is winning the nearest the pin competition on the par three twelfth hole, in a spookily similar manner to last year. Convinced that I’ve over-hit my tee-shot, as the ball looks to be heading off the back of the green, I carefully examine my club, thinking I’ve taken the wrong one, when someone observes that my ball is still rolling around the back of the green. It carries on rolling, makes a long sweeping u-turn and heads back towards the hole, finishing less than a foot away. It’s scant consolation for losing the coveted Abersoch trophy, but at least I’m in the money.
In (or at least near) the bar :
We attempt to retire to the bar only to find that we can’t get to it without gate-crashing the wedding reception that’s going on in the clubhouse. So we loiter outside, next to the putting green, to reflect on another cracking weekend, at least in terms of entertainment value if not the quality of the golf, and to make the presentations.
The day’s lost ball tally is twenty-six, making a grand total of fifty-eight for the three days. In the post-match sweep-stake, most of us take last year’s performance as the benchmark and wildly overestimate, but Richard is spot on and scoops the pot.
Mike P admits that he and Chris had been given the bridal suite, but fails to explain adequately why they didn’t ask to be moved to a twin room. Maybe it was this Mike who booked the double rooms mentioned earlier, in which case there seems to be a bit of a theme developing.
Mike also admits to having snapped the bottom off the trophy, which, thankfully, has been hastily repaired and survives the presentation ceremony.
Congratulations and commiserations are exchanged and we say our goodbyes. Another chapter in Abersoch Open history draws to a close, but we’re already looking forward to next year with eager anticipation.
This is where the story usually ends, but there’s a brief epilogue this year, as several of us plan to stop at the nearest pub for lunch. Unfortunately, however, Chris and I make the mistake of allowing Phil to lead the way. We drive for miles and miles through the Welsh moorland with hardly a sign of human life, but finally, in the middle of nowhere, we happen upon a pub. Phil attempts to blag his way out of the situation, saying he’d heard that this particular pub was worth a visit. Rather aptly, the name of the pub is The Ox – aptly because of the bull**** that Phil is spouting. We enquire about lunch only to be told that they stopped serving it hours ago and the best they can offer is a bag of crisps. Phil rather fittingly opts for beef flavour. Chris and I administer a suitable amount of abuse and hit the road again, calculating that our detour added over fifty miles and more than an hour to our journey. The moral of the story seems to be not to believe anything Phil says although, in fairness, that’s about par for the course anyway.
Well, that’s it. I hope it was worth the wait. The good thing is that it’s not that long now ’til Abersoch 2014. I’ll try and be a bit more prompt with next year’s blog – although I’m not promising anything this time!