‘’WE DON’T NEED ANY LUCK’’
We don’t need any luck? That had been my cocky or ‘confident’ reply to my caddie – who just so happened to be my dad – as I stood poised at the first tee at my home from home: Grange Park Golf Club.
It was Sunday 20th September 2015. Not just any old Sunday. There was to be no visit to my nans across the River Mersey today. Today was about something much more significant to me. Something altogether unexpected and completely challenging – both mentally and physically: Finals day
For the past week I had been both unprepared and prepared for the day’s objectives. Unprepared because I hadn’t hit a golf ball for no less than 9 days – a mild travesty in my opinion -, and prepared because my preparation plan was to not hit any golf balls and to rest whilst I let things calm down with my increasingly niggling chipstick of a fucking leg.
I’d been working on a small home extension all week and the sun had been skin crisping for the time of year. My golfers tan was well defined, and so too were the reluctant thoughts I was having about climbing up and down a scaffold all week to lay bricks. Those bloody ladders. I’d fell of my fair share of them and those memories where never too far away. It wasn’t that I didn’t like climbing (because who doesn’t like climbing – especially trees. I had a habit of falling out of them too). It was more that I was in a fair amount of pain in my left knee and the thought of scaling a ladder with my tools in hand was, to put it frankly, exhausting. Despite my lack of enthusiasm, there was a job to be done and so I carried on working day in day out without any golf in the evenings. Whether the gamble would pay off or not, I didn’t know. All I knew was that this was my best notion, and I had to convince myself that I wouldn’t regret it no matter what.
I particularly remember one day that week I was up on the scaffold building the brickwork up on a gable end when I had this sudden straining feeling shooting violently down my thigh and ending at my knee. It felt I was restrained to a ‘rack’ being streched into Mr Elastic without much choice.
‘‘Arrrrghh’’ I muttered, scewing my face up in frustration and pain. ‘’My leg’s bloody killin’’.
My colleague Mick was walking past and he made the remark ‘’It’s all that golf ye playin’’. I offered no reply but a painfilled expression on my face. Mick is funny in that way, he always enjoyed diagnosing his and everyone else’s injury’s -but doesn’t every builder? In all seriousness he would have had a point if he said it a week earlier, but the truth was that I hadn’t even been playing golf all week and I was still suffering.
Come to think of it, resting and suspending golf practice for 9 days prior to that Sunday was one of the best decisions I’d made all year. A doubt filled decision yet I still had an inlking of confidence that I could still pull it off. As I stood ready to tee off the first hole I felt re-energized, full of beans and altogether determined – a concoction of emotions that felt like they’d never re-appear in the 2015 season. The September air was muggy and overcast at around 80% humidity. No, it was actually overcast, 1000% humidity and it felt like I was in the middle of the Amazon rainforest with the chimps and killer spiders. Fitting, I thought, as my leg feels like it’s been bitten by one of those spiders. I took off my black Galvin Green pullover to reveal my red polo is was donning to signify that I was danger, or that I was in danger; one of the two. On my bottom half I wore these gunmetal grey golf pants that drowned me and looked as baggy as a 90-year old’s eyelids, and a pair of white Nike golf shoes with a hi-vis yellow sole (just in case I came across any forklifts or diggers on the golf course).
To my left was a kind chap called Steve who was our referee for the day. Steve is a great guy and has always been supportive of me ever since I joined the club years before. Funnily enough, his sister actually taught me at primary school and his daughter was a friend in the same year group as me at Rainford High School. I was happy to have Steve reffing for the morning. To my right was Caddie Carberry: my dad, Ste. He looked laidback as usual, almost yoo relaxed, as if we’d been here before. In truth, we had actually. Every single final I’d been in Caddie Carberry was on the bag, pressing buttons on my electric golf trolley and putting each club back in the wrong compartment after a shot (a pet hate of mine).
My dad and I were due to tee off in our match at around 2pm later that day. Josh was on the tee, shaking hands with our two opponents for the morning. He looked as confident and determined as ever. Duncan and Graham were the mornings enemy’s. They both looked up for it and, as they were both playing off handicaps of 5, I didn’t expect the morning to be an easy win.
Duncan was a tall man – easily over 6ft with hands the size of JCB buckets. Graham was also tall, though not a tall as Duncan the jolly giant next to him. They were both good hitters of the golf ball and both respectable, friendly men alike. I was the worst player on paper in the group, which, if I’m honest, I kinda liked. It meant I was being given shots on a few of the harder holes, and I knew if I played well I could match or beat them both on those holes. All in all, we had a good, friendly group and as I stepped up and smoked one down the left side of the fairway – a golf shot that is -, I felt confident that Josh and I were going to do what we do best together: win!
By the 10th Hole the morning dew was all evaporated and Josh and I were a few holes up. My leg had held up all the front nine without issue, though I did wonder how long that would last. There were a few people watching us closely, one of whom was a guy called Simon who was a mate of mine but a closer one of Duncan and Graham. There were also a few artisan members following too – all of whom I was friendly with. I think to them, although I was I member of the main club, they see me as one of them. A tradesman in my own right who just so happened to put just as much in a golf as I did at work.
On the back nine I was expecting more of the same. Josh was playing decently steady – though he said he felt like he wasn’t at his best – and I was just hitting my stride. I can’t actually believe I’m playing like this after over a week off, I thought as we teed off the 10th
More of the same was the morning’s servings on the back nine and we cruised to victory on the Par 5 15th hole. It was a great moment and one I’ll never forget. Despite me having doubts whether I’d even be of use in the match, my golf game had turned up at just the right moment to help my partner out. Now I had the opportunity to do the double in the afternoon with my dad.
By 2pm I’d been back in the clubhouse no more than 40 minutes and I was about to tee off in my second match, this time playing with my dad and a raised level of confidence. Still I had no pain, non-whatsoever. This time I was to be the steady hand – the proverbial rock in the pairing just as Josh had been to me in the morning. We were playing two very good mates and very skilled players; Joe and Ryan. They were both off even less than the mornings opponents with Joe playing off scratch (0) and Ryan playing off 1.
The format was alternate shots and so as usual, I advised my dad to tee off the fist so I’d be teeing off all the par 3’s. I felt very good about the match, though I knew this one would be even more competitive as we were playing two of my closer mates.
By the time we got to the 12th Hole we were still at locked horns so to speak. The match was all square but now I was starting to have issues. Leg issues. Shit, I thought, just what I don’t need right now! As I bent down to tee the ball up, more pain hit me harder than Mike Tyson. I continued on – passed the point of no return, I couldn’t let a hidden nemesis beat me. I committed to the tee shot and smashed on down the left side fading the ball from left to right. PAIN!!!! Pain was all that I could feel after I hit it. Not really knowing what to think, I played it down when my dad asked me ‘’Are y’alright mate?’’ . ‘’Yeah fine…where did you put those painkillers I gave you this morning?’’. ‘’In that front pouch of your bag there’’ . Lucky I came prepared, I thought. At that moment I realised that I’d be severely hindered for the rest of the match. It could even be the turning point, I thought. I was right, it was a turning point, though not as I expected. We halved the 12th.
By the thirteenth tee the adrenaline was coming out of my ears. The shock from the pain combined with wanting to win had re-ignited a fire that was fuelling my determination on the back nine. My dad nailed a drive about 240 yards down the middle of the fairway and Joe had put one down the left some distance in front. I had a fair distance to the green – 247 yards to be exact. I picked out my 3 wood and proceeded to hit my best shot of the day straight onto the front of the green. Joe and Ryan were visibly astounded and took back. Paul – our referee that afternoon – was too impressed. With my dad playing our third shot for an eagle on a hole we got a shot on meant that realistically, Ryan had to hole his second shot from over 200 yards just to halve the hole if we were to hole the putt. We won the hole by a country mile to put us 1 up.
Over the next few holes we dropped back a shot on 14 but then regained the lead on 15. 16 was just about halved (luckily I must add) and we now only had to win the par 4 17th to win. My dad knocked an easy 5 wood straight into striking range and from there I went on to take aim straight at the flag with a solid 8 iron to about 12 ft. It was over, there wasn’t much Joe and Ryan could do now other than hole their putt and hope we three putted ours. My dad ran his putt up to the hole and that was it, we’d won! To win with my dad was just as good as winning with my best mate but what was even better was that I personally, had won two big competitions in one day; with a dodgy leg.
Where did I go from here? The season was over and my will to play golf in the near future was distant. I felt like a crumblimg gingerbread man at that moment but I’d seen it through and made some great memories – memories for life. It was the send off I needed for the 2015 season. And what a send off of ultimate style and proprtion.
What I didn’t know at that moment was just how significant a send off Sunday 20th September 2015 would be…