So there was Robert Hunter, assistant at Malden golf club, Gary Torbett assistant at Coombe Hill golf club and myself, assistant at Royal Wimbledon, (the 3 amigos). We would meet up at least 4 times a week after work. We all finished work at 6, so we would go to each other's courses. Play for a few quid, never loads but enough to twinge a bit if you lost.
One evening Bob and I took on Gary and another assistant Mark Angel at my place, (Royal). My partner and I were having a great evening winning every single bet. If you were a couple down you would strike a new bet to try and get some money back, you keep the original bets going so you could have about 4-5-6-7-8 bets all going at once.
Bob and I were up in every bet. They were going in from everywhere. Gary was going mad. Every bounce was going our way, every bit of good luck was ours. It's now dark, this was nothing new in those days, we just loved playing golf and we didn't care how dark it was. Bob and Gary used to smoke back then so what they would do is flip their lighters on and hold the flame by the ball so you could see what you were hitting.
We would hit the ball, the flame would go out and we could feel where we hit it. You would hear the whack of the driver meeting the ball, then "right" or "left" would be said by the hitter and depending on how far off line we hit it. You would hear "shush" hoping not to hear the sound of ball hitting trees.
The 18th at Royal is a short right to left, dog leg par 4. We had the honour of which we had all night.I'm up first, whack,
"Sorry Bob that's gone"
I knew I sliced it, then the conformation of crack as the ball said na night, off never to be seen again.
"Don't worry mate, I've got this" said a confident Bob. Whack,
"it's a bit right but should be ok" Mark smashed it right, gone. Gary hit it down the middle. We walked down the right and found the ball in the light rough.
"Lads, Mark and I will stand by the green, just let us know when you've hit it".
Now remember we had won every single bet up till now. Gary is furious, he hated losing at anything which made this night even better for Bob and I. Gary was up first,
"Hit it" was the shout from the middle of the fairway.
Mark and I stood by the green with our hands on our heads to protect ourselves. Splash.
"Bunker Gaz" I shouted, trying so hard not to laugh.
There were some lights glowing in the car park and because we were so close we could just see the flag on the green.
"Hit it" shouts Bob from total darkness and I promise you, may I live and breathe, this is exactly what happened. The ball lands on the green one bounce, two bounce, hits the flag and drops straight in to the hole.
Well, Bob told me later all he could see was my silhouette from the car park lights dancing around the green, jumping up and down shouting, it's in, it's in. I cannot even begin to tell you how Gary said well done. But what a joy it was watching them empty their wallets in car park after.
We used to stick together, we were really close. All playing this great game not knowing where it would take us. We had no money but we did look like pringle manikins, if we did have a good week teaching it would go on everything golf like. From new clubs to the latest in Lyle &Scott or Slazenger clothing. I didn't have a car back then but Bob did, so he was the transport.
It was February in the early 80s when February was February, freezing cold. It seemed to get light at 08.00 and not for long.
"I'll pick you up at 06.30 from Royal, Winnie" said Bob.
I was called a few things back then but I was never unhappy with Winnie. So up at 05.00, got the train from Clapham Junction to Wimbledon, walk up the hill, across the common to the pro shop, unlock the pro shop, got my clubs and shoes and waited for Bob and Gary.
Pitch black and freezing, I'm standing there when I can hear what sounded like someone empting a load of tins and spanners all over the road. It was Bob's car coughing and bouncing down camp road.
"Morning" I cheerfully said. Gary got out of the car with a face like thunder.
"You alright son" I said.
"No" said a grumping Gazza. Put my clubs in the boot and off we went.
The car was freezing and the smell of petrol was almost unbearable. All of a sudden the car starts hopping and bouncing, just like a wrappers car only with no furry dice. I wouldn't have minded but we were still on the common.
"Here we go "said Gary.
With that Bobs car decides to sit like an impertinent dog.
"What's going on" I said,
"What do you think, this car is about as useful as a chocolate tea pot" said a fed up Gary.
"Come on son out you get"
"What, are you mad, it's freezing".
So there we are standing behind Bob's car in the freezing, dark, trying to push. It was so cold our hand stuck to the boot of the car, leather shoes were slipping all over the place, and we must have looked like young Bambi, legs going everywhere. Mind you we knew we couldn't fall over seeing we were stuck to the thing.
We got there in the end, stinking of petrol and freezing cold. I can remember sharing digs at some tournament we were playing up north. We knocked on the door of this guest house, dirty off white net curtains, chipped light blue paint on the front door. This old lady appeared,
"Yes" that's nice I thought.
"We have booked a room" I kindly said.
"Right", Oh good, that's a yes alright, lovely.
"You better come in then". She stood about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide with worn out old slippers that were filled with these tanned extra thick brown tights that were gathering around her ankles.
She was wearing about four layers covered by a piny. Not surprisingly the place was freezing and it stunk of cats and damp. We walked in to the kitchen because we had to pay up front. On the floor were 3 little dishes with half eaten cat food, dirty cups, dishes in the sink and dog ends everywhere. She had a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her mouth with about an inch of ash hanging off the end.
She was talking to us with her eyes almost closed because of the smoke and all I could focus on was the bouncing ash moving up and down with every word she said. I was thinking how on earth is that ash is staying on the end of her fag.
She took the fag from her mouth and rested on the corner of the dining table, that's nice I thought.
"You staying for diner"
"No" came a rapid reply.
"Oh ok, let me show you to your room"
"Do you have a good memory for faces?". Strange question I thought,
"Yes I do"
"That's good because there's no mirror in the bathroom".. Brilliant.
How best to behave in the pro shop
Click here to read Mark Townsend's article on the best way to behave in the pro shop and why he can never get it right.
We were bonding, team bonding.
Last week 7 members of staff and myself enjoyed a team bonding session. We were put in some situations and had to work out the best way to solve and survive these tasks.
It was a lot of fun but it became very clear to our chairman Peter Mutton, who is an expert in this field and was running the show, that I was towering over my fellow members of staff. Afterwards Peter said that I was way ahead in emotional and intellectual intelligence.
Apparently I am extremely kind, calm, caring, generous with my time and tremendously professional.
I found it all very difficult to hear but I took it just the same. What I enjoyed most of all was the supportive praise from my fellow members of staff.
It was almost like they knew the result before we started.
Our ladies gathered at the club to play "the Jan Daws roll-up".
Jan worked very hard to organise this day but she was nowhere to be seen.
The reason for her absence was she was waiting for her first grandchild to say hi to the world and of course she did, with the arrival of "baby Rose".
Mother, daughter, Nanna and Grandpa Chris are all doing well.