In an odd kind of way the absence of regular golf was liberating. Without the pressure of improvement I was able to play my best
The knocking sound you hear emanates from the knees of countless green keepers around the country. Word is on the street: I am coming out of retirement.
The golf courses of South Africa have been safe for a decade, marking roughly the period it has taken my daughter to move from play school to high school. During that time I have driven her to and from school every day, with the exception of Sunday, when she usually competes at a horse show.
The time for golf dwindled away to nothing and the Doug Sanders principal was in play; there were times when I could go 15 minutes without thinking about it. At parent teacher meetings I would find myself folding my hands into my lap using the interlocking grip. Burning firebreaks on the farm, I would pray that the wind should not strengthen from one club to two.
Of course there were days when the bag was removed from its dusty corner of the garage. Once a year I am prevailed upon to accept an invitation to play in the Sunshine Tour’s media day, there to be routinely humiliated by one of our lesser known professionals. Sometimes, in a pathetic attempt at preparation, you could even find me slicing air balls into the swimming pool. This is no way to hone a swing.
But now my daughter is halfway through Grade Seven, which means that in January she will be off to boarding school and I shall get my life back. Or at least the portion of my life that involves the dimpled ball. In six months’ time I shall not have to drive past the gates of my local club on the way to and from school: I shall be able to drive inside.
But there’s a problem. There’s always a problem with golf. The problem is this: for a decade I have walked on to the 1st tee with no expectations. Hit the first ball of the day out of bounds (as I did at my latest foray) and there is no self-loathing. How could it be otherwise? You haven’t played so you are neither surprised nor depressed.
In an odd kind of way the absence of regular golf was liberating. Without the pressure of improvement I was able to play my best. At last year’s media day I reduced my professional opponent to tears on the second hole, a 180m par three. I smoked a 7-wood short of the green, whence it hit a sprinkler head and bounded up to two feet from the flag for a gimme.
In the arcane method introduced by the organisers for the event he had to give me two shots on that hole. ‘My God,’ said the pro, as he caressed an 8-iron to 10 feet, ‘if that had gone in I would still have lost the hole!’
It ends in January. At that point I am expected to take this damned game seriously again. I can’t wait.