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.


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

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!

Tails you lose…

1 12 2010

2010 has certainly been a bumper year for rules geeks such as myself. Back in April there was  Brian Davis calling a penalty upon himself in a hazard and thus losing any chance of a victory in his playoff with Jim Furyk for the Verizon Heritage tournament. Then, of course, there was the case of poor Dustin Johnson at the PGA Championship in August; his failure to realise that he was playing out of a bunker on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits led to a two shot penalty for grounding his club and thus missing a playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson by a single stroke. Now, on the 2nd playoff hole of the European Tour’s flagship event – the season ending Dubai World Championship – we have Ian Poulter losing his chance of matching Robert Karlsson’s birdie putt by committing a rules infraction. His crime? Accidentally dropping his ball on the coin he was using as his marker, and thus causing the marker to move. The cost? A one stroke penalty – and just over 300,000 Euros (about $400,000 Cdn).

Obviously Poulter had no intention of moving his marker, which he immediately returned to its original spot, half an inch away. So is this just an arcane rule which should be got rid of as soon as possible? Some might think so, but Poulter himself (despite being an Arsenal fan) has total trust in the rules of golf  and believes that our observance of them is what makes it such a special game. He immediately called over a rules official, explained what had happened and accepted the ruling with no more than a rueful smile. Poulter was thus following in the footsteps of Roberto di Vicenzo who was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard at the Masters in 1968. Rather than blame his playing partner, who had marked him down for a 4 at the penultimate hole instead of a 3, seen by millions of TV viewers around the world, Roberto laid the blame squarely on his own shoulders: “What a stupid I am!” was the Argentinian’s now famous response. Possibly the best rules related quote, however, belongs to Bobby Jones. In the last round of the 1925 U.S. Open he called a penalty stroke upon himself when he felt he might have caused his ball to move in the rough. No one else had seen it but Jones was adamant that the penalty should stand, even though it meant that he would not win the tournament outright, but have to take part in a playoff, which he subsequently lost. Spectators and reporters alike praised Jones for his sportsmanship, but he would have none of it: “You might as well praise me for not robbing a bank” was his reply.

85 years later, Poulter was equally stoic: “It’s my lucky coin. It’s got my kids’ names on it and I’m going to keep using it,” he said afterwards. His friend and rival Rory McIlroy came up with the best line, however: ” Poults may have lost the Dubai World Championship,” he tweeted, ” but he’s definitely in with a chance at the world tiddlywinks championships…”

Season’s greetings to one and all. My Christmas gift to you is to promise not to even mention the rules of golf again…until 2011.*

All da best,

Dave B.

(*Oh, except to say that under Rule 20-1/15 there would have been no penalty if Poulter had been in the act of marking his ball when he moved his coin. Sorry. My 2011 New Year’s resolution will definitely involve trying to be less of a rules geek. Probably not going to happen).