Sunday 18 July 2010

Golf and all that jazz . . .

I understand there is something of great import happening in the golfing world – oh, okay – I know it's the Open! (Ermm, open what? Bottles of champagne for the winner, no doubt, to accompany the huge cheque!) I should know more, having taught the children of a golf cognoscenti many years ago. He produced what were then known as 'videos' – however, better-known characters, celebrities even, or perhaps those with more lucrative or influential contacts, cornered the market, I believe. I'm not an aficionado so he could be very well known in golfing circles and I would be none the wiser. Anyway, that was all a long time ago. (My eldest daughter went out with a golfing promise for a while, when they were both at secondary school. He was a nice lad – unfortunately they parted company before he'd had a chance to make his mark so I don't know how far he progressed.) Even longer ago, I went to school and was great friends with a junior Kent champion - or would that be a Kent junior champion? She was very promising, but hated the game, only playing it because her parents insisted and her mother enjoyed the social cachet of being a member of 'the Golf Club'. I wonder if she took it up again in later life?
Golf is played on beautifully-maintained landscaped greens and while I appreciate the beauty of some of the world-famous courses, on which amateur golfers would give their eye teeth to play (what are eye teeth? Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, one of my recent acquisitions – how did I ever live without it? – informs me that they are the canine teeth, located in the upper and lower jaws just below the eyes. Being of a disbelieving cast of mind, the result, I'm convinced of actually being completely gullible, I have just checked and my eye teeth are indeed below my eyes. They are not, however, 'just below', a phrase that intimates close proximity – I'd have to be a Pekingese to achieve that. When I was a child I knew someone who bred Pekingese and she bore out the saying that owners grow to look like their pets. Even at nine years of age I could see the resemblance!)
The current tournament – for one could believe from some commentaries ('Casey mounts home charge', 'Oosthuizen holds Casey at bay', 'Amateur Jeong joins the fray') that the contenders are jousting rather than aiming small balls at small holes in the distance – is the 150th Anniversary Open Championship being held at St Andrews, the course, not the University. The championship is the oldest Major (wearing crowns on its shoulders – No! No! That's just silly!) and St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world.
I can appreciate that the best players in the world are very skilled and that many amateur golfers enjoy the game and the social life that accompanies it but it does not appeal to me. I can't aim straight anyway – I'm useless at darts and pool and not much better at bowling. Put simply, my enjoyment of the great outdoors is enhanced by solitude and the company of dogs.
Golf can be a dangerous game. Quite apart from the possibility of being struck by a fast-moving missile, (or a golf club if standing too close when someone's taking a shot, unlikely though that may be) golf courses cover vast tracts of land and if a player suffers a heart attack there is little hope of medical help arriving swiftly or in time. One of our friends met his demise on the golf links.
Barry was once offered a course of golf lessons by the company for which he was working. He went along to the first couple of lessons and knocked a few balls around or practised his stance or grip or whatever it was, but was totally bored and didn't finish the lessons. The argument that important contacts are made and business opportunities are realised on the golf course is fatuous. Most people can't spare the time!
He has worked in some attractive locations, one of which had golf links attached with a club room and changing facilities. In his lunch hour he would run round the course. One day he'd just dressed after his shower and some golfers came in. They assumed he was a fellow golfer and asked him what he'd gone round in. They were rather surprised when he said, 'Twenty-six minutes.'
Today is the last day of the Open. The weather has been difficult (well, it is summer in Scotland!) and it looks as if the South African Louis Oosthuizen will win, although the Englishman Paul Casey is hard on his heels. Really, it's all double-dutch to me – birdies, eagles, albatrosses – penguins and peacocks, anyone? From the live bulletin I have learnt that the South African Trevor Immelman has birdied 14 to reach -3. As with so many pastimes one needs access to a translation tool to understand what is happening.
Rather than watching the golf I shall be caught up in the excitement of stage 14 of the Tour de France – 184.5 km from Revel to Ax 3 Domaines. As well as marvelling at the sheer tenacity and stamina of the participants the viewer is treated to stunning aerial shots of superb countryside and an informative and entertaining commentary.

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