Three days in the desert with a Ryder Cup star
Barry Lane and the Bedouin.
Not just a great name for a band, but something that actually happened.
I definitely wasn’t expecting to be watching Barry (yep, we’re on first name terms) doing a jig in the middle of the desert with excited natives as dusk fell at the end of a crazy day in Jordan when I was watching him stroll around The Belfry in beige trousers and pink jumper alongside the icons of European golf in the 1993 Ryder Cup.
Back then, he was someone about which this then 18-year-old was solely wondering if he was up to the task of beating Chip Beck in the singles.
Fast forward a quarter of a century though and sure enough, there was the 58-year-old pride of Bracknell hopping about alongside our Bedouin tour guides after shooting some video to promote the groundbreaking Jordan Mixed Open that’s being held at nearby Ayla Golf Club in April.
I’d say it was surreal but when he’s also analysed my pitching technique on my phone while sipping Arabic tea in a Bedouin tent an hour earlier, I’m not sure what’s normal any more.
There were quite a few of us there – Spaniard Borja Virto represented the Challenge Tour and Germany-based English player Olivia Cowan the Ladies’ circuit – so we had a few 4x4s careering up and down dunes for the best photography spots. Our jeep had the best driver though.
When Scott the PR man lamented there being too many other 4x4s around the ‘tea tent’ to get a clean shot, our hero told him it was no problem as he was “the King of the Desert”.
Might have been a coincidence, but when we finished our tea, almost all the jeeps were gone!
He also had a nice line in party tricks…
After the shoot and the impromptu jigging, we all had a Zarb dinner (rice and meats cooked in the ground for hours then served with amazing dips) and Barry held court with some brilliant stories, almost none of which are printable.
The one about the flight back from Paris in the early ’90s I’ll be wheeling out as if I was actually there for years…
On a less gossipy and more ‘golfy’ note, it was interesting to hear young gun Borja say that after playing a few holes with Barry at Ayla the previous day he realised the English senior’s pitching and chipping were on a different level to his own.
And that he admits young players these days just want to smash it off the tee to the detriment of short-game dexterity. Perhaps not exactly surprising TBF.
It made it even more of a shame that Barry didn’t stay overnight in the camp, because it meant he missed the chipping contest. It would have been genuinely fascinating to see what he did off the most unforgiving of tight lies (a mat on compacted sand).
With the Bedouin (bewildered at this stick and ball nonsense) and Borja (LOLing) watching on, the hands felt a little electric trying to finesse the ball into the improvised cup/not blade it over the linen ‘wall’ and into the next camp…
Jordan as a whole was brilliant. Even better than I expected. The sights (Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum) were out of this world and should be on everyone’s wish list, while the food and people were lovely.
I hired a car as usual and it provided more or less constant amusement.
This included Jordan’s obsession with sleeping policemen in the roads. Not just within towns but on what pass for their dual carriageways; they genuinely have them on their version of the A1. And these speed bumps usually appear with no warning, when you’re obviously doing 75mph.
So my hired Chevrolet at regular occasions resembled the General Lee. No sign of Daisy though.
To be fair they might have so many sleeping policemen because the actual policemen are actually sleeping. You’ve never met a friendlier or laid-back bunch than Jordan’s law ‘enforcers’.
Four of them at one checkpoint started chanting about how Manchester City were going to beat my team Liverpool to the league title rather than undertake any sort of check of the car boot.
Lads, you can’t even fill your stadium for Champions League games! Zip it and get on with your work! I’ve got a load of contraband weapons where the spare tyre should be!
My thoughts were with Barry as I flew home as I knew he and his even more lovely wife Camilla were on the same 2.40am flight from Amman to Istanbul as I was catching, 24 hours later.
It seemed a good idea at the time; sleep on the plane and get back to Manchester early morning and beat the M62 traffic.
But it was only when I dropped another of the party at the airport at 8.45pm that I realised I had four hours before I could even check in.
Then I was the meat between two very thick slices of bread on the Istanbul-Manchester flight, which was also delayed. So I landed on the brink of rush hour having barely slept a wink.
The Amman-Istanbul-Manchester connection did at least mean I had two identical Turkish Airlines breakfasts within 120 minutes of each other. So it wasn’t all bad.
I hope Barry had better luck with his flights and sleep. I’ll ask him when later in the year I take up his invitation to go the Finnish home he and Camilla stay in for most of their time.
That’s just how we roll these days after three days of routine bonding in the desert.