FIrst published on the Golf Monthly website on Sunday 13th May 2007
Fergus has just returned from playing in the Masters but he hasn’t taken the long road home from Augusta.
In my opinion competitive golf is far more fun than a meaningless knock around. Even when not in a medal I enjoy playing seriously with something at stake: perhaps a fiver, perhaps just pride. I prefer it when there are no gimmes, no mulligans and a strict observance of the rules. This way I get a great deal more satisfaction from a good score because it’s completely truthful.
I’m saying this as I’ve just returned from the most enjoyable yet serious and intensely competitive event I participate in all year: The Cornish Masters. I don’t believe the tournament is recognised by the EGU, official handicaps aren’t affected by performance and no R&A ranking points are up for grabs. But, for me, nothing gets the nerves jangling like the last day of the Cornish Masters.
The tournament is organised by Golf Monthly Editor Mike Harris, former Contributing Editor Dan Davies ably supports him while the other original Masters participants make up the committee. The event has expanded from six to 12 over the years and I, along with Neil Tappin (GM Instruction Editor), have been fortunate enough to receive an invite to the last three competitions.
The Cornish Masters is not always held in Cornwall. Actually, I’ve never even been to Cornwall. This year it was in Kent. We were playing three great courses: Royal Cinque Ports, two rounds at Princes then the final round at The London Club. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint and a test of mental and physical stamina. The winner will be the man who deals best with late nights, hangovers and heckling.
It’s four rounds of stableford with a unique handicapping system. Prizes are up for grabs in each round with the final objective being the coveted Silver Salver and the famous “brown jacket,” awarded to the champion golfer for the year. Almost as prestigious but not quite so coveted is the wooden spoon award. The competition for this illustrious prize is as, if not more, intense than for the brown jacket itself.
My preparation for this year’s tournament was poor. I returned from a trip to Las Vegas just 48 hours before the first round and was suffering badly from jet lag when we teed up at Deal. By the time I’d crawled round 18 holes, spent a considerable amount of time searching for my ball in knee high rough and had failed to get up and down at any point, I’d secured a miserable 25 points and sat in second last place.
I’ve a reputation for not performing to my potential in the Masters and I was thinking more of the same was in store this time round. So I elected to give myself an excuse by having one too many beers that evening. I certainly wouldn’t advocate it, but for some reason it seemed to work on this occasion. I went out at Princes and scored 39 then 35 points. It meant two podium finishes that saw me climb into second, just one off the lead.
Second place going into the final day was uncharted territory but I coped relatively well at the London Club. Mike (editor,) however, was in the lead and as 2005 Masters Champion he knew how to deal with the pressure far better than me. He ran out a deserving winner and I, despite a mild capitulation, finished tied second.
I’ve just experienced something that got my nerves jangling more than the Cornish Masters. I went downstairs to make a cup of tea, opened the sitting room door and a huge crow flew out at me, I think it must have fallen down the chimney. 27 is pretty young to suffer a heart attack but I can’t have been far off. After a 20 minute struggle I managed to get the brute out of the spare room window. What omen did this winged messenger bring? If I lived in ancient Greece it would certainly have been a portent of my impending doom. As I live in modern day Scotland I’ll take it as a signal not to attempt a driver off the deck in next week’s medal.