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.

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Gold River – Grudge Match Redux

20 09 2014
18th hole at Gold River

The 18th hole at Gold River

Three weeks ago I received an email from my good friend Peter Dobbs. It consisted of the above picture and a very short message: “The 18th awaits. Get ready!”

It was a none too subtle reminder of our annual pilgrimage to Gold River and the pain and suffering that the course has caused me on past visits. I have mentioned Peter’s somewhat laissez faire approach to the rules of golf in previous posts, which drove me to distraction back in 2010. I abused him so much that I was later forced to make the following disclaimer:

Legal notice

26 04 2010

On the advice of my lawyers ( Sue, Grabbit and Run) I wish to make it perfectly clear that a derogatory comment about ‘my mate Peter’  in last week’s blog was a reference to a totally fictitious character. It should in no way be construed that I was referring  to Mr Peter Dobbs of Powerhouse Road, Courtenay whose character is, of course, as pure as the driven snow. It would be outrageous to suggest that Mr Dobbs would ever seek financial gain by using his physical or mental infirmity in order to receive a higher handicap than he is entitled to. Clearly Mr Dobbs misunderstood the concept of  a ‘handicap’ as it applies to the game of golf. Nor should there be any doubt that  his habit of occasionally breaking  wind while a fellow competitor is in the middle of his backswing is completely involuntary and the fact that the French verb ‘péter’ means ‘to fart’ is merely an unfortunate coincidence. Finally, may I say that I yield to no man in my admiration of Mr Dobbs for continuing to persevere with a game for which he has no talent whatsoever.

Once again, in abject apology for any misunderstanding,

Bagger Dave

 

This then is the background to our three round battle that took place at Gold River golf course this week. Peter has had a few medical issues recently but, to his credit, I’ve never known him to use this as an excuse for a bad golf shot. The fact that he plays only a dozen or so rounds a year and I play ten times that amount would also, one might think, make me a firm favourite in our contest, but that would be to ignore Peter’s competitive nature as well as his ability to wring as many strokes as possible out of gullible opponents such as yours truly.

As usual, we drove up to Gold River in Peter’s trusty RV, introduced ourselves to the lovely Jen in the clubhouse, got settled into our campsite on the abandoned driving range and then headed for the practice putting green. As I knew it would, the question of handicaps came up immediately. I’ve been in a rich vein of form recently and my cap has dropped to 8. Peter, of course, has no official handicap and so we had to agree on a figure. I suggested 16, Peter asked for 20 and we settled on 18. We obviously got it right, because 4 hours later we walked off the 18th green having halved the first match, although our scores (86 and 98 respectively) suggested we were a bit more hackerish than we’d hoped.

Peter fancies himself as something of a gourmet chef and that evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal of corn beef hash and sweet corn, accompanied by a selection of alcoholic beverages. And therein lay the problem. You would think at age 60 I would know better than to combine beer, red wine and whisky but apparently this was not the case. I have no clear recollection of getting myself to bed, but I do know I felt absolutely awful on the first tee the following morning. It was no great surprise that Peter gave me a bit of a thrashing, 3 and 1.

 

This is how Lord Dobbs of Gold River looked that evening

This is how Lord Dobbs of Gold River looked that evening. Most superior.

...and this is how I looked.

…and this is how I looked, pondering a heavy defeat. What was Plan B?

It turned out that Plan B was the non availability of a golf cart for our final round. Gold River golf course has some particularly steep climbs on some of the early holes and Peter, whose age – like his IQ – is in the low seventies, struggled to cope with having to walk the course. I quickly went three up and Peter never really recovered, particularly as his win in the second match meant that he had fewer strokes to play with in Round 3.

The overall result, then, was a win and a half for each of us, which meant that the match was tied overall. Peter has suggested that the tie breaker should consist of our respective ability to consume alcohol, in which case I readily concede defeat. I do, however, make this solemn vow: I shall never combine beer, red wine and whisky at a single sitting again. Ever.

Congratulations to Peter for his good play, great cooking and surprisingly solid grasp of golfing etiquette this year – a definite first – and many thanks once again to all the staff at Gold River golf course for their great hospitality and warm welcome. It’s a pleasure to play there and in my opinion the value for money is second to none. To paraphrase Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘The Terminator’: “We’ll be back”.

All da best.

Dave B.

 

 





In praise of…MISGA

11 07 2013

For those not in the know, MISGA stands for Mid Island Senior Golfers Association. It’s an organisation that promotes friendly competition between male golfers aged 55 and over who are members of  some twenty clubs located in the central part of Vancouver Island. For some reason, even though I became eligible to join four years ago and love playing different courses, I rarely played MISGA events prior to this year. Partly, perhaps, because there always seemed to be other things I was supposed to be doing on those days, and partly because my lack of organisational skills meant I was constantly missing the cut-off dates for entries. Mostly, however, I suspect that it was because of fear of being outed as a hacker.  After all, it’s one thing for my usual group of buddies at Glacier Greens to know that I’m not exactly Rory McIlroy (actually, on his present form, maybe I am), but quite another to have my shortcomings revealed to an entirely new audience of golfers, stretching the 200 kilometers from Duncan in the south of the MISGA region to Campbell River and Gold River in the north.

Well, needless to say, I shouldn’t have worried. I should have realised when I was told that the prizes for low gross and low net scores were a sleeve of Noodles that the stakes were not so high that I needed to get myself into a tizzy over the odd duffed shot. My experience so far has been that while MISGA guys are, by and large, playing by the rules of golf, once it’s obvious that a player is not going to be at the prize table, the gimmes become a little longer and the exact scores on particularly unkind holes become a little more inexact, shall we say. I have yet to enter the prize winners’ circle, by the way, but live in constant hope of the random draw prize. And then there’s always lunch – uniformly excellent in my opinion, with Fairwinds perhaps shading the rest of the field at this stage of the season.

So today at 9.00 a.m. sharp, to show my appreciation for the great efforts made by volunteers at other MISGA clubs, I found myself  standing in the light rough on the right hand side of #14 fairway at Glacier Greens, ready for my first action as a ball spotter. I didn’t have long to wait: the very first tee shot started down the right edge of the fairway and then, ever so gently, faded into a stand of trees about 180 yards out, right near where I was positioned. I hustled to where I saw it land, saw a ball and signalled the safe sign, as demonstrated to me  by our MISGA rep just before the start of play (me being a Brit, I’m more acquainted with cricket signals than baseball ones, but I had it down pat). When the player arrived (he happened to be from Port Alberni) I was pleased to be able to point out the ball, which had a pretty good lie. He took one look at it and said “That’s not my ball”. Luckily, not ten yards away, but behind a tree and in not quite such a favourable lie, I spotted another ball. Phew! The gentleman from Port Alberni thanked me and played out sideways onto the fairway, while I went back to my spot. Ten seconds later I heard a strangled cry: ” And that’s not my bl**dy ball either!” Oops! So, having confessed to being no great shakes as a golfer, I now have to own up to being the world’s worst ball spotter. To be fair, the gentleman from P.A. did say afterwards that he should have checked the ball more carefully, and I didn’t make any obvious blunders over the next four hours or so and received a lot of thanks from folk who probably do the same job when their club hosts a competition. Even so, it wasn’t the greatest of starts to my new career…

Anyway, this is in praise of MISGA, all the hard working MISGA reps, and all the ball spotters out there who know what they’re doing!

All da best.

Dave B.

P.S. For some reason, when I replayed the wrong ball incident in my mind afterwards I thought of this:





Grudge match at Gold River

25 06 2011

Looking back down at the 2nd fairway at Gold River Golf Club. It’s quite a climb up to the 3rd tee box!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then the subject of this week’s post will need no introduction. Step forward Mr. Peter Dobbs – one time whisky salesman, police officer, teacher, mechanic and car importer. You name it, Peter’s done it and usually has a strong opinion about it. Our friendship dates back to 1992 when I bought a used Volvo from him, sight unseen, while I was still living in England but needed a vehicle ready for as soon as I immigrated to Canada. I sold it for a profit 10 years later, after many adventures – including discovering a box of rotting fish, thoughtfully provided by Peter, in the wheel arch three days into a journey to San Diego. I’d slighted Peter a few days earlier apparently, and he knew his generous offer of a free service just before the trip would not be refused. Revenge for Peter was sweet, but for me it was totally rancid!

We’ve played a few rounds of golf together over the years, but never really seen eye to eye over how the game should be played. I am Mr Rules Guy; Peter has an altogether more cavalier approach. I know my handicap index to the last decimal point; Peter enjoys negotiating strokes on the first tee, knowing that it really winds me up, and thinks that his correct handicap is whatever he can get away with. I believe that good etiquette is a fundamental part of the game; Peter is of the opinion that anything he can do to put me off my game is all part of the fun. I could go on, but you probably get the picture by now.

I play LOTS of golf, maybe 150 rounds a year. Peter claims to play about 10 rounds a year and usually has some trivial ailment – last year it was open heart surgery or some such thing – that he believes entitles him to an extra stroke or three. He phoned me up a couple of weeks ago and asked if I was interested in a trip to Gold River and the chance to get my $5 back. Well! Talk about red rag to a bull! Peter knew perfectly well that this was an opportunity I would not be able to resist. Six years ago, with a couple of friends, we played the rugged nine hole course in beautiful Gold River, a small town a couple of hours north west of sunny Comox. I’d been sucked in on the first tee re handicaps as usual, played particularly badly, and reached the 15th green three down and needing a tricky downhill four foot putt to stay in the match. As I drew the putter back, ready to apply the most delicate of touches, Peter loudly broke wind. Not surprisingly, my ball missed the hole by a mile, and the match was over. I could – and should – have dealt with defeat graciously, but was completely unable to do so. To make matters worse, when I handed over the $5 bill, Peter promptly wrote the date, location and my name on it and, to the best of my knowledge, has never removed it from his wallet since.

So on Monday Peter and I headed up to Gold River in his luxurious camper van for a 54 hole, winner takes all, final decider as to which of us is the true heir apparent to Rory McIlroy when the lad finally hangs up his mashie niblick. We spent the first half of the journey discussing the merits of our respective grandchildren (Peter’s 11 month old granddaughter Makayla and my 10 month old grandson Eli), when and where the arranged marriage should take place and who should pay a dowry to whom; the second half of the trip was spent on the much more serious topic of how many shots I would be giving Peter. We agreed upon a starting figure of 8, but with wiggle room for the second and third rounds if necessary.

My belief that Peter would struggle with the hilly terrain was quickly proved well founded as he hacked his way to a 7 on the very first hole. Sadly I had a few difficulties of my own and, with his stroke, Peter went one up. I never really recovered and 3 hours later we were shaking hands on the 16th green, with Peter the 3 and 2 winner. Grrr!

A great fish and chip supper in the clubhouse and a couple of beers, followed by a couple more around the campfire,  put me in a much better frame of mind for the morrow and, now only giving the arch enemy 6 strokes, I found myself 3 up in the morning round with 3 to play. At this point my game totally deserted me and Peter fought back to tie the match on the 18th green. Double grrr!

I should mention at this point the hospitality of the Gold River Golf Club. Laurinda, the lady behind the bar, immediately won my heart by telling us that Mondays were two for one and then added that “You”, pointing at Peter, “definitely get the Seniors rate!” When I tell you that between us we played six rounds of golf over two days, rented a cart for 27 holes, had two delicious fish and chip suppers and half a dozen beers and paid a smidgin over $80 each you’ll appreciate that you get value for money at Gold River!

Even so, no great deals were going to ease the pain if I lost to Dobbs, so I began the final round in determined mood. Five straight pars to start with definitely gave me the upper hand but Peter’s own improved play (and those darn shots I was giving him) left me only one up as we played the final hole – a hole I had to at least halve to square the match. Things were looking good after two shots each, with Peter still 150 yards short of this long par five and me lying just off the fairway but only 80 yards or so out. It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse. We drove up to where my ball lay, and there it was: gone! My heart sank and my heart rate rose. Four minutes were spent trudging through the rough as I desperately tried to find my ball. Finally, with less than 30 seconds to go before I had to declare my ball lost and concede the match, Peter called out “I think I’ve found it!” Sure enough, there it was. An ugly lie, but at least I could lay a club on it. Three shots later I’d won the hole and halved the overall match, but Peter – the subject of a threat of litigation from me just a few months ago (read my post “Legal Notice” for more details) – was now confirmed as a man of honour. Who’d a thunk it!

So honour was satisfied, Peter’s reputation enhanced and Gold River Golf Club firmly ensconced as one of my favourite places on the planet. This may or may not be good news, Laurinda – we’ll be back in September!