In praise of…Doug McArthur

7 05 2016
He stoops to conquer.

He stoops to conquer.

Everyone – and I mean everyone – at Glacier Greens has a Doug McArthur story. They may not have ever actually played with the great man or even engaged him in conversation, but everyone has a tale to tell about Mac. Often it will involve his superhuman power of hearing and accompanying short fuse, which in days of old could be lit by something as innocuous as a butterfly landing particularly heavily on the green just as Doug was putting. Doug has mellowed over the years but, even today, woe betide the greens keeper who starts up a machine, or the playing partner who thoughtlessly whistles or, God forbid, jingles coins while Doug is going through his pre-shot routine.

My first encounter with Doug, which I’m sure he’s long forgotten, came nearly two decades ago, when I’d only just joined the club. I was about to putt on #9 green when I was interrupted by a shout of ‘Hey, you! Can’t you read?’ An angry man with a beard was fast approaching, pointing to a sign which said ‘Keep pull carts 20 feet away from the green.’ Admittedly my cart was a bit nearer than that (although at least one of the wheels wasn’t on the green at all), but still. This human whirlwind left as quickly as he’d arrived, leaving my playing partners to explain that I’d just met the legendary Doug McArthur: designer and builder of Glacier Greens golf course, many time club champion and all-round scary person.*

As luck would have it, a few days later I arrived at the course to find that I’d been put in the same group as Mr McArthur. Fortunately he didn’t appear to remember who I was, as he never once mentioned the unfortunate cart incident. He played beautiful golf, shot two or three under par, and left me to fend for myself as I hacked and thrashed my way around the course. As we shook hands on the 18th green he asked what I’d scored and I told him: 88. ‘Wow’, said Doug. ‘With a swing like yours I’m amazed you broke 100.’ I don’t think I actually burst into tears, but I must have been pretty close because Doug then surprised me by saying ‘We could try to fix it if you want. How about meeting at the driving range at Mulligans on Sunday?’ We did meet and Doug spent an hour or more working on my grip. He managed to change my pronounced slice to a slightly more acceptable fade and if, 20 years later, I’m still not quite the finished article it’s not for want of trying on Doug’s part. ‘Check your grip!’ I’ll hear him yell from the second fairway as I’m about to tee off on #1.

And so to my latest Doug McArthur story. For some inexplicable reason (insert your own suggestion here), I found myself without a partner for this year’s shoot out. Over breakfast with Len Doyle I was explaining my predicament. As is often the case, Len had a possible solution to the problem: ‘Jim Livingstone can’t play this year, so Mac needs a partner. Why don’t you ask him?’ I was a bit doubtful at first. It wasn’t just the disparity between Doug’s level of skill and my own. There was the question of, well, talking. Doug has a high level of concentration (stratospheric, really) and I er, don’t. Doug likes to focus before each shot and I tend to fill in all the gaps in conversation with whatever comes into my head at the time.

To cut a long story short, I proposed a partnership with Doug (or ‘marriage from hell’ as my fellow Sandbaggers called it) for the shoot out, promising to be on my best behaviour, and he – surely with some misgivings – accepted. I then came up with a cunning plan: as playing partners for the first two weeks I suggested Keith Allan and Rod ‘Fifty Shades’ Gray, or ‘Statler and Waldorf’ as I sometimes call them. My reasoning was as follows: they are just as much hackers as I am, plus their on course behaviour is, if anything, worse. True, Doug would be distracted by their antics, but I would look pretty good in comparison. What could possibly go wrong?

Sadly, the answer last week was ‘a lot’. Apart from a fortuitous chip-in for birdie on #2 (if my skulled chip hadn’t hit the flag stick and ricocheted into the hole my ball would have finished in the ditch), I contributed absolutely nothing on the front nine. Nada. Not a single par. In this team event of all team events, Doug was playing completely on his own.

On #10, after yet another poor drive, I trudged miserably up the fairway. Rod and Keith came up alongside me. Doug, wisely, was keeping his distance, presumably in case whatever golfing affliction I had might be infectious. ‘Hey Dave,’ said Rod, just loud enough for Doug to hear. ‘If you want to be of help to your partner, why don’t you carry his bag or offer to clean his shoes or something? I mean, let’s face it, you’re doing f*ck all else!’

Thanks a lot for that, Rod.  And let’s just see: next week we’re playing the dreaded alternate shot, where there’s absolutely nowhere for me to hide. I can hardly wait…

All da best.

Dave B.

*I have long since downgraded Doug from ‘all-round scary person’ to ‘a kind and friendly person it’s still probably better to keep on the right side of.’

And if you’re reading this, Doug, let me get my apologies in nice and early: ‘Sorry, partner!’ Quite simply, the Glacier Greens we all know and love wouldn’t exist without you. Mac – you are a legend!

 

 

 

Advertisements