The Summer Knock Out

woody2Shakespeare was right. He knew about his seasons. After an April of sunshine and sun block, the Bank Holiday weekend was a wash out and ‘rough winds did indeed blow the darling buds of May’. The pink cherry blossom lay sodden on the ground and the seas were whipped white and angry. The trees, green with spring, bent to the unforgiving wind. The weather forecast for the Monday was low fronts and squally showers. In the end it was a day of hail stones and hope. A Greek wedding and an English breakfast. And a five letter word.

The gold stars had been earned and banked for the week end. Several tip runs to dump rubbish. A cooked English breakfast – mushroom, bacon egg and toast served with a pot of tea. The ironing board had seen plenty of action and the cupboards overflowed with food. Lunch was homemade soup and fresh baked bread, munched as the rain lashed at the window panes.

Dinner was roast pork with trimmings followed by apple pie and custard. The Golf Police was suspicious. The roast had been demolished and there only remained the last dregs of wine in the bottle. Suffused with good food and wine, it seemed a good time to lob the hand grenade across the cutlery.

“Remember I mentioned about playing that match” I said over the apple crumble.

“What match?”

The first round of the mixed summer knock out. The opposition were high flying Number Crunchers. Dates were tight. Their time precious. The email was in the inbox.

Subject – Summer Knockout

OK with you if the match is played on the Bank Holiday. No other date x

Sometimes you go with what you’ve got. I sent the reply and missed out the bit about the dog house and the Bank Holiday date.

Summer Knockout.

Cool. Will meet The Boss on the practice ground x

There just had never been the right moment to tell the other Boss at HQ. It never got flagged up with the Golf Police.

The weekend was typically Bank holiday weather. The first day it rained for seven hours and the day turned into night. Lawns became lakes and motorways flashed up the warning matrix signs. SPRAY – SLOW DOWN

Sunday was wet. A day spent on the sofa with the remote and the oval ball.

Monday dawned blustery and chilly. Daughter No. One sent a text.

Off sailing. Can you stick all my sailing gear in a bag by the door xx

Have you seen the forecast? X

The sailing gear was collected and the golf gear loaded into the car. Galvins were donned for the car loading session.

The driving range faced due north. Five seconds was enough to freeze bone marrow and sand blast unexposed skin. I turned round and headed to the short range and then the club house. A roaring log fire warmed the spike bar. Golfers congregated round the flames, with their coffees and tales of the front nine. The water dripped off their caps and water proofs. Unwillingly they headed off to take on the back nine. Hills. Hail and howling squally winds. The catering staff was busy preparing for a big wedding. A big Greek wedding.

“Don’t suppose they will be smashing too many plates today” said the Boss looking up from the papers.

“So we definitely are going to play then?” I said. The Boss looked up from graphs, projected predictions and the bale out figures for Greece.

“Let’s see what happens when we get to the first”.

“The weather forecast looks ok” said the Pro cheerfully, checking the computer screen.

There were raindrops as big as lakes on his screen but our little bit looked clear.

“So where is that big black cloud on the screen?” I said “the one that’s hanging over the clubhouse?”

The Pro zoomed in and enlarged the picture. No rain on our patch. We headed out to the tee at the same time as a bride was applying another layer of lip stick and trying to find the bridesmaid who was hiding under a bed. The catering staff was busy laying the tables and tying ribbons on the chairs for the wedding party. The four tiered cake was by the top table, table plan in place and the DJ’s were checking their sound equipment.

The opposition turned up, wet from the driving range and tucked into comfort food – full English with hot tea and toast.

We worked out the shots in the clubhouse. In the warm. Numbers are not my bag. But I know when numbers don’t stack up. The Number crunchers made their handicaps a total of fifty one.

“You cannot be serious” I said. They were and the numbers were right.

“Could be worse” said Mr. Number Cruncher. “They have a handicap limit on this comp. I have lost four shots”.

We counted our blessings and the shots. They came to seven. Three on the front and four on the back. Greensome foursomes. The sun shone on the first. We got the birdie. One up.

“Not our usual start” I said to The Boss with a discreet high five.

“We normally lose that hole”.

After four we were three up. There had been some good golf. Mr. Number Cruncher put back spin on his approach to the third.

Some drives found the fairway. Chips ran softly on the rain softened greens. Putts dropped into the cup. As any golfer knows, when golf is good, it’s an easy game. We talked about the dimpled ball, number crunching and the city.

“So what do you do?” asked Mrs. Number Cruncher. I knew her talent with numbers. Her ability to read and analyse a spread sheet. I knew she had lunch with people I read about in the financial section of the papers. It was not a time to declare my numerical dyslexia. My grasp of number sequencing did not go beyond three pars on the score card. Or back to back birdies. I mumbled about words.

“I like words” I said. “I scribble a bit”.

My words blew away on the wind.

“And does your other half play”. There was not time to explain about the Golf Police and his engagements with the dimpled ball. The golf balls in the fruit bowl and the carbonized suppers.

“Not really” I said. And we left it at that.

The ninth was a bad hole. The Boss had taken a line tight to the trees. I overcompensated. And found the rough the other side. We were between a rock and hard place. An overhanging oak or a bunker and a gorse bush. We went with the bunker and the ball disappeared into the trees. We found it. Nestled amongst a pile of grass cuttings.

“I think we get a drop” said The Boss. Rules. Rules. Rules. I tried to think of when I last saw one of the Big Boys on Tour find grass cuttings. The wind howled and the opposition waited. In the middle of the fairway for two and the green at their mercy. I selected the club. There was no room for a back swing. And the ball was half buried. Stay down and commit to the shot I whispered softly. To myself. The club stabbed into the grass and missed the ball. The Number Crunchers duffed their chip and we walked away with a half. One down after nine.

I sent a text to the sailor.

Squalls and hail here. Are you ok x

The tenth is a long par five. Uphill with a green guarded left by trees. A bunker right. OB along the right side of the fairway. The Number Crunchers had a ball in play. Up the middle. We had one ball in play. For our third shot. Nestled in a dock leaf. Two inches inside of OB.

“Could be worse” said The Boss.

“Just smack it onto the green”. The green was one hundred and sixty yards away. Uphill. Guarded by bunkers. The ball lay below my feet. Hidden beneath the dock leaves. There may be golf manual with instructions on how to play such a shot. I had not read it. What followed was not pretty. Neither with the dock leaf shot nor the pheasant taken out by my Taylor made on the twelfth.

Our game did not go according to plan. Neither our plan nor swings were hail proof and the opposition had a game plan. They understood numbers. They were averse to risk taking and they could see the end game. They were the sort of people you would trust with your shekels. They knew all about balance sheets. They played strategic golf and removed all element of chance. It made them dangerous. They understood about using shots and they knew about the eleven billion which had quietly left the banks of Greece.

Their game plan worked and we shook hands on the fifteenth, as the hail hammered down and the wind blew cold from the north. The five letter word. Loser.

A text came through from the sailor.

Really sunny and warm here. Hope you are ok x

The bride had found her bridesmaid and made her vows and the Greeks arrived, bearing gifts. No one brought a copy of Virgil’s Aeneid or a wooden horse.

The Pro swore the computer weather check was up to date and the north wind continued to blow the darling buds of May. Much as The Bard had predicted in his sonnet.

The first round of the Summer Knock Out. Losers. I wrote the Number Crunchers names on the board, got home and threw my clubs by the boiler. I needed a bath. Silence. Solace and hot water. The Golf Police called out as I reached the second stair. He heard the thud of the clubs as they hit the boiler.

“So it didn’t go so well, then?” he said.

I thought about the match. The hail, the grass cuttings and the dock leaves near the OB. The pheasant on the twelfth that had not seen the Taylor made until it was too late. I thought about Greeks bearing gifts and being knocked out on the first round. The radio was on in the kitchen. Muse – Lets start over again – and I wished we could re wind the round.

Take a different club off the tee on the seventh. Commit to the shot on the eighth. Take a drop from the grass cuttings on the ninth. And I wished the Number Crunchers had not been so nice. Loser is a five letter word and I needed to soak in the bath and put the round to bed.

“You could say that” I said quietly and went to find some soft fluffy towels.