It was a Spanish Summer.
Alvaro Quiros won the Spanish Open in May, followed by the honed Nadal in white at Wimbledon, who swept away the pretenders to his crown on centre court.
The Spanish young guns took centre stage in South Africa and found the back of the net with the swerving round ball. They kept the red and yellow on their flags. Unlike the Dutch, whose orange was tinged with tears and yellow cards. And a splash of red.
The Spanish returned home champions of the world, with their cup and stud marks, to plazas painted red and yellow. From Madrid to Malaga. From Santiago del Compostela to Barcelona, the Spanish hombres and senoras partied late into the night. Quiros, Garcia, Jiminez , Seve and Dino went to bed and dreamed about the world cup and Spanish gold. The Dutch went to bed early and blamed the ref.
The Italians took their hopes and flags to the Scottish Open. Clarke found the chilly loch and Molinari the Elder carved a three shot lead over the big fella from Northern Ireland. Darren dried his feet and Molinari the Younger snapped at his heels.
It was a week to get a message to Tiger and negotiate with the Golf Police. One would prove easier than the other.
The trip to Stratford-Upon Avon and the land of the Bard vanished like a Mid summer’s night dream.
Running the escalators on the underground and beating train timetable deadlines. A tortuous train journey, with rucksack- swinging crisp- munching mobile phone addicts and fractious sleep deprived babies. The train does not always take the strain. It is not always better to travel than to arrive, but it beat the gridlock on the motorways and beyond the graffiti scrawled window, the clouds drifted by poppy- dotted wheat fields.
We checked into our hotel, with its six pillowed bed and watched the river with its drift of swans. Wooden boats being gently rowed upstream in effortless synchronization. Oars, rollocks and ripples.
“We should try that” I said.
We did try it and dodged overhanging willows and underwater weeds.
“Mind that motor cruiser” said the Golf Police.
It missed, we rode its wake and established a point of seamanship. Port and starboard relate to the boat.
“I said turn to port” said the Golf Police.
“Yes, but was it your port or mine?”
We ate bowls of pasta with red wine before taking our seats in the theatre to witness sword fights and laugh with Mercutio. Watched the star crossed lovers, with their stolen kisses and dreams and wept with the nurse at the death bed scene of her Juliet.
We drank in the Dirty Duck with the thespians and returned to the theatre another night to watch King Arthur’s Queen in her blue velvet cloak and bluebell crown and ate burnt burgers under a star studded Shakespearian sky.
And in between wigs, costumes and props, exit stage left and curtain calls, we met the Man from Savannah. And his good lady.
We met in the restaurant with its white crockery and curvy cutlery. Linen napkins and view of the river. Behind the JCB and the lorries.
The Man from Savannah went with the full English.
“Just love English bacon and the black pudding” he said.
His good lady stuck with the scrambled eggs. And the bacon.
He was a golfer. We compared notes over the napkins. His Ping putter to my Bettinardi. His eighteen shots to my twelve. I lost in the first round of the summer knock out. He was the super seniors champion at Savannah Golf Club.
“Two years running” said his wife.
A champion who had lived in Augusta for three years and knew every blade of manicured grass, Amen Corner and the marble greens.
“Did you see that shot of Mickelson’s?” he said.
“The 207yard shot on thirteen? When Bones the Bagman said go with the six iron? The shot Phil threaded through the pines, carried the water and landed on the green? The shot that set up the birdie and gave him his third green jacket at the Masters?
“The very one” said the Man from Savannah.
He was there. He smelt the pines and heard the ball leave the club face. He saw it carry the water and land on the green. He saw the eagle putt miss and the birdie putt drop into the cup. He watched the hug of Phil and Amy at the back of the eighteenth green, when the golfing world wiped away a tear.
The Golf Police and the good lady from Savannah sighed over their kippers and scrambled eggs. It was a mutual synchronized sigh.
“Come and have a game if you are ever our way” said the Man from Savannah. It was a deal. A dream for the fairway walking diary. A dream which would have to be sold. To the Golf Police.
We walked by the river and found pubs built of Cotswold stone. We drank chilled beer. The landlord gave us a map.
“Nice little circular walk” he said. We donned the sun screen and walked in the fields. And got lost.
“You had the map” said the Golf Police. The sun shone and the water was all gone. We walked. In silence. The terrain did not match the map.
“This way looks good” I said. “I have a good feeling about this way”. We followed the arrows. The way was not good.
“Yellow arrows” said the Golf Police. “These are blue”.
“What was the name of the village?” asked the thespian.
Upper. Lower. Greater. Lesser something. We agreed to disagree.
“When does it get dark?” said the Golf Police. We walked between wheat and hawthorn. Cows and squadrons of horse flies. We walked until we ran out of fields and the pub was not even a mirage. The ‘saint seducing gold of the setting sun’ began to sink in the west. Along with our hearts, hopes and blisters.
Our knight in shining armour drove a van. A cricketer. We made it back to the pub of Cotswold stone. Wedged between hammer, chisel and cricket bat. A Shakespearian thespian riding on a tool box, without her crown of bluebells.
We clamboured out of the ‘Van of Brian’. Watched by the locals.
“Lost” said Brian, to the assembled throng.
The beer tasted good and we slept soundly by the willow edged river.
The days flew too fast. We left behind the six pillowed bed, the drifting swans and the thespians. We did the goodbye scene in the car park. A hug and a kiss and a walking away.
“Look back one more time” I whispered. “Just once more”.
She looked and threw a smile.
“See you in London and New York”.
The thespian disappeared round the corner with a piece of my heart.
“Any chance we could drop down to Savannah after New York?” I said. The Golf Police sighed his Savannah sigh.
“Look at the map” he said. “Do the maths”.
Life resumed its pattern of burnt suppers, past its sell by date milk and rounds of golf.
It was time to get a message to Tiger and negotiate with the Golf Police.
I sent an email to a golfing buddy who had won the lottery. Single figure golfer. Ugly swing. Four days walking The Open, inside the ropes. I flagged it Urgent.
Subject – Message for Tiger
You need to speak to Tiger about his putting. Tell him he does not need a new putter. Tell him the science boffs have found the secret of putting. It’s all to do with the ‘quiet eye technique’. Tell him to give me a ring and I will talk him through it. And whatever you do, don’t let him see your swing.
PS. Tell him to have a bet on the Spaniards or the Irish to win the Claret Jug. Or the English Rose.
PPS. You know I said I hoped it rained – for four days? I meant it.
The Golf Police was more difficult. I cooked. Cleaned. Ironed. Changed beds and washed towels. The taps gleamed and the fridge was full of food. Meat, puddings. Fresh milk.
“You feeling ok?” said the Golf Police walking into a kitchen full of baked pies, home made curries and fish pie.
“Fine” I said . “Fine”.
The Man from Savannah would understand. Russ inside the ropes would be on side. The Swindle knew and so did Molinari the Younger and the Elder. The Spanish were coming. Along with the Irish and the Yanks. England, Scotland and Wales. The Colombian, Argentians and the Aussies.
The decks were cleared. For The Open. Four days golf. Mistress of the Remote. The pies were baked and the scene was set.