Trumped by the Dutch

26 01 2017

I’ve not played golf for nearly two months now, largely because the famously mild Vancouver Island winter was replaced this year by weeks on end of sub zero temperatures. I’m not sure my fellow Canadians from the Prairies and back East are truly sympathetic for us wussy Westerners, but still…

Anyway, rather than focus on the train wreck that was my golf game before the big freeze I have been forced to look outwards to take in the wider scene of what’s going on elsewhere on the planet. I couldn’t help but notice that a very angry man with orange skin and an extremely dubious hairstyle has been elected leader of the free world. Unfortunately, he is now setting forth policies that seem to threaten the well-being of the said free world.

I must admit I found this somewhat troubling, but then yesterday I received this video from my good friend and fellow Sandbagger, Smokin’ Joe Dunham. Please watch it. It’s great. You’re gonna love it, you really will. Trust me, it’s fantastic:

P.S. I’ve heard Donald Trump’s real golf game is about as bad as my own, in which case I do have a certain (limited) amount of sympathy for the man. Of course that could, in the words of the equally vile Kellyanne Conway, just be an alternative fact…

All da best!

Dave B.





A Boxing Day slip-up

29 12 2016

In Europe most countries take a winter break during their football season (that’s soccer for those of you of a North American persuasion). Given the cold, wet climate that would seem pretty sensible. Britain, of course, does not. Not only that, but games played over Christmas regularly attract the highest attendances of the season. When I was a kid teams actually played local derbies on Christmas Day itself, with the reverse fixture played 24 hours later, but nowadays they’ve settled on a full Boxing Day programme with two more games to play in the coming week.

I was particularly excited about this year’s fixture list as my favourite team, Southampton (known by all as the Saints), were playing my brother Mike’s favourite team, Tottenham Hotspur (known as Spurs by their fans and ‘those north London ba$tards’ by everyone else), and the game was going to be televised.

Over the years Spurs have definitely had the better of Southampton and Mike has rarely been slow to point this out. Determined to stake out the high moral ground, I phoned Mike ten minutes before kick off (7.45 pm British time, 11.45 am here on the west coast) to suggest that there was no need to phone each other every time our team scored – we could just have a nice, civilised chat once the game was over.

Well, that plan went straight out the window when Saints scored barely 60 seconds into the game. It was like reaching for that third mince pie – I knew I shouldn’t but I just couldn’t help myself: I rang Mike immediately. He was pretty good about it, but did point out that there were still 89 minutes left. And, of course, karma kicked in: 15 minutes later Spurs equalised. Surprisingly, Mike didn’t call. Early in the second half Spurs went ahead. Still no call. Saints conceded a penalty and had a player red-carded. Still no call. Spurs scored a third. Nothing. Finally, 30 seconds after Spurs went 4-1 up, the phone rang. Sure enough, call display showed Mike’s number. I picked up the phone and, without giving him the chance to speak, I said “Well, you can f#ck off for a start.” There was a pause… and then my 84 year old mum, without missing a beat, said “And a very Happy Christmas to you too, darling!”

So that’s me out of the will, then.

Love you, Mum!

Your truly penitent son

David

(Oh, and Mike – well played, both you and Spurs!)





Season’s Greetings

18 12 2016
Yes it's lovely, but...

Yes, #12 at Glacier Greens certainly is lovely, but…

I’ve written before of Len Doyle, Glacier Greens’ Saturday Men’s Director and all-round good guy. He’s not had much to do of late as the course has only been open for Saturday play once in the past eight weeks, initially because it was waterlogged and then the temperature dropped a few degrees, so Len went out to the course yesterday to remind us of what we’re missing.

Given that it’s still hovering around zero, it looks as if my golf may well be done for 2016. It’s been far from my finest year on the links, but hope springs eternal and – born optimist that I am – I’m sure that things will turn around next year.

With thanks to Len for his gorgeous photo and season’s greetings to you and yours.

All da best!

Bagger Dave





Wow!

20 11 2016

Sometimes you see something and you’re just lost for words. It’s a rare occasion when that happens to me, but here’s one such instance. I’m sure you don’t have to be a fan of cricket – or, for that matter, any sport – to have the same reaction as I did. Wow!

The fielder, Liam Thomas, was playing for the England Physical Disability team against Pakistan in the final of a recent tournament in Dubai.

How can you not be inspired by that?

All da best.

Dave B.





Viva Italia!

4 11 2016

Scottish Wife and I have just got back from a visit to Europe. Three weeks ago we flew in to London Gatwick and I immediately headed west to see my family while she headed east to see hers. One week later I joined her at her sister in law’s in Essex to be told that we (SW and I) had two days to plan a trip to ‘somewhere warm’. The following day we’d settled on the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy and 24 hours later we were on an EasyJet flight to Naples.

Here’s the Coles Notes version of our trip:

1. We stayed in a very friendly, family run hotel in Pompeii, about 100 yards from the nearest train station. Unfortunately, the bridge you had to cross to reach it (the Ponte Persica), which had been there since Roman times, was closed for repairs and so every day we had to use the next station, a mile down the line, and brave the traffic without the benefit of any sidewalks. We quickly learnt that Italian drivers are very skilled at missing pedestrians – by a couple of inches.

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Up Pompeii! And yes, that is Vesuvius you can just make out in the background..

2. The guided tour of Pompeii was my non-culinary highlight of the week. We spent two hours hanging on our guide’s every word and then went off to do some exploration of our own. Brilliant! We also visited the less famous (but better preserved) ruins of Herculaneum and of course made the mandatory hike up Mount Vesuvius.

3. All these places (as well as Naples to the north, Sorrento to the south and all points in between) were easily reachable by train (once you’d got to the station, of course – see 1. above). And the maximum fare was 2 euros 20 (about $3.30). Say what you like about Mussolini and fascism, but he did set up a decent railway system. (Let’s hope they’re not saying the same thing about Donald Trump 80 years from now…)

4. On the down side, train etiquette seemed somewhat lacking. Some people (I’d like to claim they were all American tourists, but that may not be wholly true) would literally shove their way onto the train before passengers had a chance to disembark. However, one of our best train encounters was with two elderly, non English speaking ladies from Naples. We tried French, Spanish and mime without success until a young couple in the seats across from us started to translate for us. We covered family, tourism and Brexit and were well on the way to world peace when the young couple had to get off. By now everyone else in the carriage was looking on and a young lad offered to take up the role of translator. We eagerly resumed, only for the youngster to interrupt us 30 seconds later to say “I not understand. I no very good at English. Maybe 5 out of 10?” “Er, maybe 2,” I said, and the whole carriage cracked up.

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

I like me full English breakfast, but only Italians start the day in this style!

5. Real Italian pizza is every bit as good as you imagine it’s going to be. Ditto for ice cream and espresso coffee. However, I’d never heard of sfogliatelle (pastries filled with sweet ricotta cheese) before last week. Now just typing the word has put my salivary glands into full flow mode.

6. What with me being a bit of a polyglot an’ all, I figured I’d be able to learn basic Italian on the 3 hour flight from Stansted to Naples. That kid on the train who I rated a 2/10? Put me down as a 1.5. Just enough to ask a basic question and then have no idea what the answer means. “Sono inutile!”

7. See Naples and die? We had beautiful weather for 7 days out of the 8. The one day it rained and blew a gale was when we went to Napoli. We traipsed up and down the cobblestones of the admittedly cool (but slightly scary) back streets, me singing the Peter Sarstedt hit “Where do you go to, my lovely?” all the while, getting wet feet while trying to avoid the detritus all around us. Naples: city of dog sh!t and broken umbrellas.

Positano. Wow indeed!

Positano. Wow!

8. Capri and the Amalfi Coast on the other hand were spotless and very, very upmarket. Also, given the narrowness of the winding roads in both places I would say there’s a case to be made for the bus drivers there to be as talented as any in their profession world wide. And Positano? Wow indeed!

9. SW and I slept through the tremors that rocked central Italy. On hearing the news that the earthquake’s epicentre was only 100 km from us, my perfectly innocent question as to whether the earth had moved for her during the night was met with a snort of derision.

10. Co-winners of the Nicest Italians award were our lovely hotel receptionists for their unendingly enthusiastic suggestions for our day trips; the translators on that train trip from Sorrento to Pompeii; the restaurant owner who, when he learned that we knew Pasqualina at the Hotel Costa, cancelled our expensive taxi ride back from the restaurant and told one of the waiters to take us back in his beat up Fiat 500 instead; and finally, the brothers who ran the fruit and veg stall just down the road from the hotel. They’d already endeared themselves to Julie by insisting she try one of their fresh figs for free before buying and then gave her half a kilo for 1 euro 50. When I asked where the nearest wine shop was one of the brothers tapped the side of his nose, disappeared through a curtain and returned with an unlabelled bottle of red: ‘vino di casa vero’, he said. Real house wine, from his own house!

Grazie mille, Italia!

Dave B.

And, just in case you’re struggling to remember that Peter Sarstedt song, here it is:





The Cat

7 10 2016

I was 12 years old when England won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. Four years later, defending the trophy in Mexico, they made it through the group stages without difficulty and in the quarter final match led West Germany 2-0 with 20 minutes to go. England’s legendary goalkeeper Gordon Banks had had to pull out of the game with food poisoning but they had a great replacement in Peter Bonetti, nicknamed ‘the Cat’ because of his amazing agility and reflexes. Unfortunately, Bonetti fumbled a shot to give the Germans hope. Sure enough, Germany went on to win 3-2 after extra time and Bonetti never played for England again. I’m now 62 and still waiting in vain for a second England victory.

When I immigrated to Canada in 1992 I joined a local soccer team called the Collingwood Innvaders. Our goalie was also English, also named Peter and also known to his team mates as the Cat – not because of his great skills, however, but because of his tendency to have a nap if play was concentrated in our opponents’ half of the field. Peter Dobbs only played for that first season, but we’ve become great friends over the past two decades – and fierce rivals on the golf course.

For the last few years, always in late September, we’ve played a series of matches – always match play – at Gold River. Peter plays fewer than a dozen rounds a year (and I play 150), he doesn’t have a proper handicap (and I know my factor down to the last decimal point) and his knowledge of the rules is selective at best (and I’m a rules official). Despite all this our games are nearly always close (thanks to some pretty tough negotiating on the first tee re exactly how many shots I’m to give him). And at close of play, one of us always looks pretty smug:

Just how smug can a man look?

This is Peter after the first round at Gold River last year.

So last week I phoned Gold River to make our usual booking for two rounds of golf, overnight camping and our standing order for lots of beer and fish and chips. To my dismay I was told that the course was closing the very next day! Oops – lucky I phoned. Plan B was quickly put into operation. A quick look at the weather forecast, an equally quick look at Peter’s 2 for 1 Lung Book, and phone calls were made to Cowichan Golf and Country club and Mount Brenton in nearby Chemainus.

The weather worked out perfectly. It was lashing down when we left Comox on Wednesday morning, but sunny and warm when we arrived in Cowichan. I played pretty well, shooting 81, but I was giving Peter a shot on all but the Par 3’s and it proved too much. He made a great up and down at the 18th to win the match one up. “Well played, Mr Dobbs”, I muttered through gritted teeth. I was about to mention my bad luck in mysteriously losing a ball on the 17th fairway, but then remembered my tee shot on #16 which landed in the bunker, hit a rake and ricocheted onto the green. Better to maintain a dignified silence and hold on to the moral high ground…

Right next to Mount Brenton golf course is a large parking lot ‘for the use of golf patrons only’ and that’s where we camped in Peter’s RV that night. Peter had provided supper, so I bought the beers at the somewhat dubious-looking pub a couple of hundred yards down the road. Peter was pretty quiet (he’s not usually quiet after a victory) and when I asked him why he explained that he’d just remembered that he’d had a heart attack last time he’d played Mount Brenton. Not only that, but the guys he’d been playing with (not knowing how serious it was) had insisted that he paid up his $6 bet before he left the course! Now Peter is quite capable of playing mind games if he thinks he can gain an advantage, but I knew that even he wouldn’t stoop so low as to make up a story of this magnitude. Actually, it reminded me of another reason why he’s called the Cat – with all his heart attacks and other medical issues over the years, he must have nine lives!

The morning got off to a rocky start when the pro shop pointed out that our 2 for 1 coupons were not valid until noon. Even Peter couldn’t talk his way out of that one and I think that may have affected his play. I wasn’t at my best, but Peter struggled too – except on the greens where he irritated me no end by making every single short putt he looked at. After 14 holes we were all square, but suddenly his putter deserted him and he three putted the next two holes to leave me dormie two. When he hooked his tee shot into the trees on #17 we knew Peter needed a miracle. We found his ball, but all he could do was chip out sideways while I – for once – hit my second shot pretty close to the flag. As we walked to the green, Peter mentioned he’d felt pretty nervous about his tee shot. I agreed that #17 was indeed a narrow fairway to aim at. “It’s not hitting the fairway I was worried about,” Peter replied. “This is where I had my heart attack.”

We were pretty sombre for all of thirty seconds and then it was back to the usual insults, with Peter insisting I putt out from 18 inches when I had three putts for the match. When I queried the need to putt out, he simply said “Well, you never know.” And of course he’s right – you never do.

Over coffee on the patio afterwards, Peter brought out a trophy he’d made for the event. To say it was ugly would be putting it kindly. Thinking of Scottish Wife’s probable reaction if I showed up with the trophy in tow, I protested: “But we won one match each, Peter, so surely we should share it.” “Indeed we do, my son – but you get it for the first six months!”

ugly-trophy

ugly-trophy-2

Don’t tell anyone, but the way I’m playing these days I’m actually pretty happy to be part winner of a trophy, however ugly it may be:

All da best (and cheers, Peter!)

Dave B.





Thank you, Mr Palmer!

26 09 2016

As most of you will know, Arnold Palmer died yesterday at the age of 87. The short video below captures something of the essence of the man and how he transformed golf. Perhaps an extract from an article by Ewan Murray in today’s Guardian newspaper sums it up even better:

Eighteen months ago in the clubhouse at Bay Hill, venue for the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the adopted winter home of this golfing icon, Rory McIlroy was approached. “Rory, if you need anything this week, you just let me know.”

McIlroy’s reply was as swift as it was pertinent. “Mr Palmer, I will never want for anything at all in life. That’s all because of you.”

My favourite anecdote, though, also from today’s Guardian but this time from the letters page, reads as follows:

In the 60’s my uncle, a keen golfer, took a friend who’d only just taken up golf to see the Open at Lytham St Anne’s. It was quite a long trip. They arrived and were bundled along by the crowds and found themselves on the front row of a tee where looking up, they saw the mighty wrists of Arnold Palmer addressing the ball. My uncle says that Arnold hit his drive with such aggression that there was a collective intake of breath from the watching crowd – all except my uncle’s friend who spontaneously shouted out ‘fucking hell fire’ as the ground shook and the ball sailed into the distance. The stewards promptly threw them both off the course. They got to see one shot. But what a shot.

Brilliant.

All da best  – and thank you, Mr Palmer!.

Dave B.