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Dear Diary,

For the first time in my golfing career I can honestly say I was proud of how I played on Saturday. No, it was not my best performance ever and, yes, once again there were a few stupid holes and bad shots. But, to be standing on the 14th tee 14 over par knowing that I only had one shot to ‘play with’ over the closing 5 holes and then being able to get home 15 over par was an achievement. It is honestly the first time I can say that I have gritted my teeth, pulled my socks up, showed a bit of testicular fortitude and finished the round well, knowing I had to make pars. Usually being 14 over through 13 would result in my having a temper tantrum, through a Pro V down the Dee and refusing to speak to my playing partners. This could be the start of a new chapter in my golfing career; I am now a man who has bottle…………possibly!

As I write this I have just received an e-mail from ‘How Did I Do’ to my amazement I have been chopped by 0.6 for my efforts on Saturday! Got to love it when quads and triples get rounded down to double bogies and getting chopped 0.3 for each shot under my handicap! I am now the lowest handicap I have ever been, and the start to the season has taken a dramatic turn for the better after last week’s opening shambles.

Now, on Sunday I was meant to be representing the Banchory Deeside League Team in a friendly match against Banchory’s Junior Pennant Team. As I mentioned last week, the thought of getting beaten by a junior was playing on my mind slightly and could have ruined any confidence I had. Thankfully two of the youngsters had been snogging too many girls and drinking too much White Lightning down the Dee the night before and had to pull out, I was only too happy to offer to pull out of the competition and play a bounce match with my partner Granty and Derek, who is the Junior Convenor. Although it was snowing and freezing I enjoyed the 15 holes we played and was happy to see a couple of the guys getting horsed by the juniors, 6 and 4 in the match in front of us! The tie ended 3-3 which was a fair result, seeing those young boys playing so well off low handicaps made me wish I had taken up the sport when I was younger, I would certainly not be battling around the course playing off 15 as I am now.

All that remains to be said is that I am heading to Turkey on Wednesday with 5 of the boys for a week of golf, all inclusive booze and sun. We are playing four courses whilst we are over there including the National which is meant to be extremely difficult. It should be an excellent week away and a great chance to play some golf on immaculate courses in lovely weather; hopefully it will help me scrub some more of the rust away from my swing for the remainder of the season. Full report to follow in 2 weeks time, if I remember anything after the afternoon beers.

Until then, I am the lowest I have ever been and no longer on bridge watch. It could be a good season!

Official Handicap: 14.2

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 0/10

J Symons

14 Handicapper.

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Dess Press contributing writer Jon Symons has just reminded me in his weekly diary that I am a pathetic excuse for a golfer. I had become so engrossed in watching the Masters over the last two nights, I had temporarily forgotten. Thank you so much for jogging my memory Jon. I must now consider my demons and attempt, if not to exorcise them, at least to face them.

I suppose the starting point should be the confession – On Saturday I committed the cardinal golfing sin, well not quite, I guess the cardinal golfing sin would be dropping a ball down your trouser leg or some other type of willful cheating. OK then, on Saturday I committed a significant golfing sin – A no return. Not much in this grand old game is more abhorrent than to see a medal score with letters rather than numbers in the total score box.

My decision not to complete the round can only be viewed as an act of complete cowardice and I should be pilloried for my spinelessness as Jon so rightly pointed out. Thanks again Jon, it’s for the best. I could list all the excuses under the sun for giving up on Saturday but none of them would hold even a molecule of water.

I’m afraid that, when I lashed my drive on the 18th so far out of bounds that it ended up in a different postcode, I just couldn’t face hitting another shot. Yes, it was raining, yes I had already notched up seven penalty shots prior to that moment during the round, yes it had been the slowest game in recorded history, yes I had a case of the shanks brewing and knew that one more iron shot could make them stick, yes my playing partners had already walked on assuming I would give up the ghost. But, I should have kept at it. I should have posted a score. It was an unacceptable act and one I will have to live with for the rest of my life… well until the next medal at least.

The Masters was pretty exciting wasn’t it? With the benefit of hindsight I’m glad that Bubba won, he played some absolutely incredible shots – the one that won the playoff defied the laws of physics. He is a supremely talented golfer and it just shows you don’t have to play this game by the textbook to be brilliant at it. I bet Bubba has never posted an NR. Oh the shame, the shame.

I say that I’m glad Bubba won with hindsight because I wasn’t so chuffed last night. The reason for that was I had a decent sized wager on Oosthuizen to win at 80-1. When Bubba played that shot from the trees I had to hold myself back from sticking my putter (I always like to have a putt on the carpet while watching the Masters) straight through the screen. Thankfully I didn’t, as that would have been a crime almost as great as NR’ing in the medal. If I’d done both I don’t think I’d be able to live with myself anymore. In fact, just writing about that NR is making me feel pretty close to the edge. I’m going to spend the next few hours thinking about what I can do to become a better person. Thanks once more Jon, this has really helped.

Dear Diary,

Sometimes when playing golf I find it extremely difficult to enjoy myself, which is a shame because it is a pastime that I am meant to love. Saturday’s opening medal of the season was a day I would like to quickly forget, but I am sure will come back to haunt me at other trying points of the season.

I started fairly well, a double bogey at the tough par-3 2nd was followed by a birdie two at the far easier par-3 3rd, and I was going along nicely at 2 over par until I reached the 6th tee. This is where I truly lost the plot and showed I have the mental strength of a bowl of custard. To be alongside the par 5’s green in 3 is not the worst thing in the world but to walk off from there with an 8 is unforgivable. I truly never recovered from this and went out in a rather disappointing 7-over-par.

Now, the back nine was what could only be described as an absolute disaster, double bogey followed two bogeys and a triple bogey at the 13th which included a shanked second shot down the River Dee. To say I had suffered a mental breakdown would be an understatement. From there on in I just wanted to get off the course, it was a horrible afternoon, I could not hit the back off the ball and ended up just chapping it about the place like a man who had never picked up a club before.

It was further proof that my mental strength and my desire to shoot way below my handicap are the biggest flaws in my game, at 7-over through nine holes I still had eight shots to play with on the back nine, but to let my head drop and give up so quickly is a real worry for the rest of the season. Stats will show that for the last 13 holes of the day I shot a quite unbelievable 21 over par, to finish 8 shots outside my buffer zone.

To my playing partners on Saturday I would like to extend my apologies for my mood on Saturday, it can’t have been fun to watch me sulking and moping about the place. The gentlemen who had the misfortune of my company were Adam and Ross. Adam is the defending club champion and a superb striker of a golf ball, on a luckier putting day could have shot 10-under on Saturday. To say he hits the ball miles would be unfair, I think the drive he hit on the 15th on Saturday is still in the air! Ross on the other hand is quite possibly the scrappiest golfer off 4 in the world! He did on Saturday show me the meaning of mental strength after a horrible 7 on the par 3 ninth, he gritted his teeth and fought on to a very respectable round of three-over-par, this did however include the worst par I have even seen at the 13th and a combined total of about 20 putts! The gulf in skill between me and these two guys was extremely evident on Saturday!

I would also like to take a moment to mention the editor of ‘The Dess Press’ Fergus, who made my day on Saturday by making the most incredible bogey on the par-3 16th hole I have ever seen, to follow up a shank into the cabbages with a 80 yard shot over the ‘doo’cot’ and two putts from miles off was very respectable, however his decision to NR going down the 18th will not be forgotten, tut tut Mr Bisset, next time just post your 83 nett 80 and have a laugh about it!

As expected my bridgieness level has taken another hiding today, I have decided not to amend my target handicap just yet, will wait until next week I think. Along with a medal on Saturday we have a friendly match against the Junior Pennant team on Sunday, a defeat to a 12 year old could end my season very early, so if anyone want to buy a set of clubs; give me a shout next Sunday evening, they could be for sale!

Official Handicap: 14.8

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 8/10

J Symons

15 Handicapper.

Also published on the Golf Monthly website

We’re fortunate to have the most cheerful postman in the UK. Seriously, I would be confident of putting Ken up against any other Royal Mail employee in a head to head, “happy-off.” He’d smile, chuckle and chortle them off the park.

Every day I see him he’s beaming from ear to ear, he gives a friendly wave or stops for a chat. His favourite topic is invariably the weather. He gives his analysis of current conditions and a prediction on what’s to come. Even when the outlook is bleak he delivers the news with a hint of optimism. “Yes, it looks like a hurricane is coming – winds up to 140mph. But it’ll dry the ground out nicely so that’s good news.”

But even Ken has been left feeling a little flummoxed by the recent weather here on Deeside. Last week Aboyne witnessed record temperatures in the mid 20s. People were strolling around eating ice creams, sunbathing by the River Dee, they were out in the garden barbecuing and other such summery activities. But now I’m looking out at snow! It’s been as low as minus two and the golf course is closed. Ken knocked on the door yesterday morning to hand over a parcel. He still had a smile on his face but he was struggling to come to terms with the meteorological mix-up. “I just don’t know anymore,” he said. “It’s anybody’s guess what we’ll get next.”

What Ken? No optimistic slant? I knew global warming would have some depressing side affects but this wasn’t one I’d prepared myself for.

Luckily for me, I was away for the most intense snowfall at the beginning of this week. I was down in Surrey playing in the “Father and Son” Open tournament at West Hill Golf Club. I’m going to write a feature about the experience that will appear in a forthcoming copy of the mag so I won’t go into too many details. What I will say is that, foursomes is a stressful game and playing it with your father makes it even more so.

There’s a picture on the clubhouse wall at West Hill featuring an advert for one of the earliest Father and Son tournaments, held in the 1930s. It depicts a man and a boy looking at a ball lying in a very unappealing spot in a bush, the caption reads, “I’m sorry about putting you there dad.”

One of the unwritten rules of foursomes is that you never say sorry. I’m sorry, but that’s impossible. After I shanked one into the trees midway through the second round and it rattled off down a path leaving an impossible shot to the green, how could I not say sorry? After I’d hit a 315-yard drive down the third only to watch the old boy catch the (pretty straightforward) second shot seriously fat, I certainly didn’t reject his apology.

I’ve decided it’s ok, actually a good idea, to say sorry in foursomes. It gets it out in the open, you acknowledge your mistake and your partner is given the chance to absolve you of your sin. If you say nothing it bubbles under the surface. “Doesn’t he feel any sort of guilt for putting me in that bunker? I just can’t do this anymore.”

Dad and I got on remarkably well (ok, we didn’t fare brilliantly in the competition itself) but, relationship-wise, we’re still on speaking terms. I think part of it was our unspoken decision to say sorry when appropriate. Not every time we made a minor mistake, just on the top-grade blunders: missed 2-footers and balls out of bounds, the sort of thing that can’t be salvaged. If you’re driving someone else’s car, you don’t need to apologise for taking two goes to get into a parking space, you do if you try it in one and put a giant scrape down the paintwork!

Dear Diary,

The season has officially started! At Banchory this is traditionally celebrated with a Captain vs Vice Captain match. The format is straight forward, ‘4 ball – better ball’ in handicap order. This ensures that you can play a scratch match with golfers of round about the same ability as you and should result in a fair contest.

Now, let me open by stating that I am a terrible loser and therefore have forced myself to have a quite handy match play record, especially in this format when playing for Banchory (The Buffaloes) in the Deeside League. I was confident on the tee and was partnered with a gent who has years of experience round Banchory. We had been pitted against two guys I had never met before, unknown quantities you might say, but nevertheless I was confident of victory. This confidence soon turned to a shuddering sense of an inevitable defeat after one of the guys we were playing against who’s handicap was ‘14’ rolled in an absolute ‘moonraker’ on the first for a birdie 3. Things went from bad to worse from there and at the turn we were down by 4. Even though I managed a credible birdie on the 8th, defeat was on the horizon.

The 10th hole and the 12th hole were lost to birdie and the 13th was lost to par after I decided to vent my frustration with a driver off the tee! Cutting the corner over the trees is possible from the white tees on the 13th, not however if you hit your straightest and possibly longest drive of the day. I am sure it cleared the river Dee! So, we had been beaten 7 and 5 and I had been handed the largest defeat of my match play career.

It was not until we were on the next tee that the guy who played off ‘14’ announced that he was actually only 3 over par and that as a youth he had once played off 4! I am still unsure if this was rubbing salt into the wounds or an explanation of why we had been beaten so handsomely. It is tough playing off 15 when pars are not good enough to even half holes.

Although we had be destroyed I actually rather enjoyed the afternoon’s golf, played some good shots, more bad ones and struggled off the tee again. Putting was a lot better though and felt more confident with a wedge in my hand than in previous weeks.

Still, cannot wait until we get started for real this weekend coming, it will be nice to have a card in my hand, playing with my pals and taking money off the Pro for twos and winning the medal, which I have decided that I am going to do. Need to bounce back from a 7 and 5 horsing!

The Masters is on this week too, I cannot believe it is that time of year already! I wonder if the guy on the 10th has put up a large fence to ensure that Rory is not playing his second shot off his patio again? I really hope Tiger wins it though, a middle finger up to his doubters and further proof that he is the best player of my lifetime, if not all time.

Until next week, handicap remains the same but ‘Bridgieness Level’ has taken a significant hit after Saturday’s defeat.

Official Handicap: 14.7

Season Target: 10.4

Bridgieness Level: 5/10

J Symons

15 Handicapper.