LG columnist Madeleine Winnett has had a strange week...

Golf News

Cheesecake, Benny Hill, the possibility of skiing with Mel Reid and Skyping Nancy Lopez

I am fully aware that for much of my time I seem to live in some sort of strange, parallel universe. But even by my own standards, this week has been stranger than most. My job entails me interviewing some high-profile players from time to time, but when it comes to collective name dropping, the last few days will take some beating – especially since I haven’t been anywhere near a tournament.

I owe a lot to the spectrum of modern technology as it began with a text message from Alison Nicholas asking me to play on her team in an event, followed the next day by me emailing Laura Davies and Trish Johnson to meet up with them.

I then arranged to phone Catriona Matthew during one of her brief visits back home, and had a mobile conversation with Annika Sorenstam as she was en route to Heathrow airport. I managed to discuss the possibility of going skiing with Mel Reid and at the same time set up a session to Skype Helen Alfredsson and Nancy Lopez – for both of which conversations I intend to have my clothes on.

I say that because I have only just joined the world of Skypers. For the uninitiated, it’s a free face-to-face video call via the camera on your laptop which shows everything in remarkable clarity. I was finally persuaded to begin Skyping by a friend in Dubai, who then called me as I was still in bed. As first conversations go, chatting to a man whilst they can see you in your nightshirt did strike me as faintly odd, so from now on I am going to sleep fully clothed, fully made up and with a comb on my pillow in case I am caught out again!

Here I am again saying, ‘Oh my word’, only this time in amazement that a so-called serious paper and golf reporter could get away with writing like this Talking of being fully clothed, I have just read the most extraordinary piece of golf journalism I think I have ever seen by Peter Dobereiner, writing in The Observer in 1984 about the Women’s British Open at Woburn. This is a reminder to us all just how far equality has actually come:

“… The other factor which obscures objective judgment of women’s golf is what used to be called cheesecake in the distant days when my generation became so excited about Miss Gussie Moran’s lingerie. Nowadays, in the advanced stages of my dirty old manhood, I believe it is called crumpet and I was looking forward to watching a variety of crumpet by the name of Muffin Spencer Devlin…”

    Last month I found myself saying, ‘Oh my word’ a lot when I read about Ms Spencer Devlin’s colourful antics, but here I am again saying, ‘Oh my word’, only this time in amazement that a so-called serious paper and golf reporter could get away with writing like this. It’s more akin to something out of a Benny Hill sketch and makes Jeremy Clarkson look positively saint-like in comparison!

The late Mr. Dobereiner is the author of ‘The Book of Golf Disasters’, and I can only think that he should have included himself in the pages if this snippet is typical of his offerings. It would have been very interesting if he had still been alive today to ask him how he felt about those words now and if he regretted writing them.

Of course, times have changed, so it’s not really fair to compare material from the past and present, but it does pose the interesting question of whether many of us would take back things we have written in the past and craft them differently given the chance.

Surprisingly, for someone who seems to have acquired something of a reputation as a controversial journalist, I have remarkably few regrets. For the last 12 years I have been unreservedly, and unapologetically rude about CONGU and I stand by every word I have typed, as I blame them for being wholly responsible for robbing me of the best, most enjoyable and most competitive days of my golfing life.

That aside, considering the thousands of words I have written, I seem to have upset remarkably few people. Only recently, two complete strangers introduced themselves to say how much they enjoy my column and how entertaining they find it – which is lovely to hear, and the reason why I do it. Any criticism is nearly always when someone has taken an isolated sentence completely out of context, and chosen to put an entirely different spin on it from the way it was intended.

Suffice it to say, it is unlikely that I share a similar senses of humour with any of my complainees, and should we ever be paired up for an episode of ‘Come Dine With Me’, it would undoubtedly make interesting viewing. Naturally, the fact that I can’t cook wouldn’t help matters, but I am sure that as long as I was careful to remove all traces of plastic film before serving, they would never be able to tell the difference between Tesco’s Finest and mine. And, after all, if I was ending with cheesecake and crumpet, what could possibly go wrong?

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