My Week in Golf: Soaring on an eagle
This is the face of a man who has just scored only the second eagle of his life.
I look thrilled, don’t I? Believe me, I really was.
How Did I Do records don’t go back far enough to record the other time I enjoyed a golden hole – it was a slam-dunk into a par 4 for anyone who gives a hoot.
But this was a proper one – on a par 5. One drive, one approach, one putt. No flukes. Perfection.
Twenty four hours earlier, any thoughts that something so magnificent could occur in my game were utterly improbable.
Regular readers – or anyone who’s ever even vaguely scanned this column more than once – will know putting is my Achilles heel.
Game Golf tells me I’ve got the long game profile of a single figure player and the flat stick ability of a 25-handicapper. In fact, the latter is actually slightly better.
At the weekend, I reached a nadir.
I’ve taken lessons. I’ve even bought an artificial turf green so I can practise. I’ve spent thousands searching for the ideal putter.
And then, on Sunday, I three-jabbed so often I broke the skin slamming the clubhead into my hand.
Time to seek help.
I’m ashamed to say I’d never been fitted for a putter before. That was until about 30 minutes after I walked disconsolately off the 18th green at my club, Sandburn Hall.
It’s amazing what you learn when you actually ask someone who knows what they are talking about.
So here’s a shout out to James, at American Golf in York, for putting up with my neurosis, guiding me through the shelf full of flat-sticks to choose from and even giving me an on-site lesson.
I really should have paid for that.
Such was my total confusion, I couldn’t tell whether my stroke was straight back and through or in an arc.
After hitting a few balls with half a dozen different models, and going through the measurements, I opted for the Odyssey White Hot Pro 7 model.
It’s face balanced so it’s hard for me to pull the club through impact – most of my missed putts are short and left.
But with the ball a bit more further forward in my stance, I felt a level of comfort stood over the ball that has eluded me for many years.
Did it work?
When that putt dropped in on the third hole at Notts for that precious eagle, the memories of all those failures and disappointments ebbed away in four short feet.
And a bit of confidence can do wonders for your game.
I went round a tough championship track in handicap, birdied the 14th – a 25-footer from off the green that rapped into the cup – and crashed a 255-yard drive down the last. All very enjoyable.
Along with my betterball partner Craig Higgs, of Golf Genius, we even won the tournament with a tidy 42 points.
Except we didn’t.
I’ll still be counting this as the first victory of the season. But there will be forever an asterisk beside it in the roll of honour.
We were playing in the East Midlands round of the National Club Golfer Secretaries’ Day. As an employee, I was ineligible to win.
So, of course, we did. By two points.
We smiled through gritted teeth and slow clapped as the home club duo of Martyn Bonner and Nick Jones picked up ‘our’ winning prizes.
You enjoy those holdalls, lads.
In all seriousness, though, to play so well on a difficult course – it’s 6,600 yards off the yellows – means I’m brimming with optimism looking ahead to the start of the season.
I’m finally motivated to get on the practice green and work away. April can’t come soon enough.
Darren Emmerson, who is running our Winter League at Sandburn Hall, will get very upset if I fail to mention that he birdied five holes in a row on Sunday – and would have managed a sixth were it not for a missed 12-footer.
“Put that in your column,” he told everyone who was listening in the clubhouse.
Happy to oblige.