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  • Alistair Tait

Bowed But Not Broken By 72 Club

Updated: May 23, 2022

There were 18 exhausted golfers at the conclusion of the 49th 72 Club at Littlestone Golf Club. Members suffered tight backs, sore legs, blisters, assorted other ailments and considerable chafing in parts of the body best not mentioned in a family blog.

Was it worth playing 72 holes of medal play, walking and carrying a bag around this hidden gem of a links?

Hell yes! The majority can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Tim Lindfield, a 10 handicapper from Haywards Heath Golf Club, won for the second time with a nett score of 289.

Me? Put it this way, someone has to finish last. Afraid my fantasy of four scores in the 80s didn’t go well, albeit my opening 88 gave me a sense of hope. False hope.

I did leave with a modicum of pride: I didn’t hit triple figures, although I came close. Not sure how I managed that since my golf was more Jack Nicholson than Jack Nicklaus. Playing off a 12 handicap, the 72 Club maximum, I added 92, 99 and 96 for a gross 375, nett 227. Talk about humbled? The 11 – yes, 11 – on the par-5 18th hole will no doubt give me nightmares. I finished this year’s 72 Club with a birdie on that hole after finding the green in two with a drive and a 4-iron (yes, it was downwind). That will probably drag me back next year for a 14th tilt at golf’s longest day.

Here are the numbers which matter. My partner, 12 handicap Purley Downs member Andy Norrington, and I teed off at 6:57am and walked off the course after 72 holes at 7:03pm.

We took two hours and 22 minutes for the first round. We were three hours 17 minutes in round two due to Littlestone members ahead of our nine two balls. It felt funereal after round one pace.

We had a lunch/shower/change of clothes break after 36 holes then played round three in two hours and 43 minutes (again due to members ahead of us), before playing round four in 2:24. An average of two hours and 43 minutes per round.

Who says golf has to be slow?

Of the 18 who played, three were making their debuts. Will they be back next year? The list of competitors before this year’s event showed 60 players who thought 72 holes in one day was a good idea before swollen feet, blisters, aching legs and taking on a former Open Championship qualifying course that is no pushover at just 6,438 yards off the white tees to a par of 71 changed their minds.

Andy Parkinson, a three handicapper from Purley Downs Golf Club, was one of this year’s debutantes:

“I really enjoyed it in a machoistic sort of way. Pretty sure I’ll be back next year,” Parkinson said.

That comment came during the prize presentations. Parkinson’s final decision may rely on how he felt Tuesday morning. Will he come to love the 72 Club like a fellow Purley member?

Martin Watters is a two-time winner who was playing his 32nd 72 Club since 1983, joint third on the appearance list with six-time winner Kerry Scott. Jon Daly’ 34 appearances with two victories make him second overall. That’s still a long way behind iron man Bryan O’Neill with 47 outings since the inaugural 1972 event. (Those numbers make my 13 showings since 1996 look puny.) O’Neill couldn’t play this year due to Covid, so Watters was the most experienced 72 Club member at Littlestone.

“This is my favourite golf event of every year,” Watters said. “I look forward to it. Not just the actual golf, but the camaraderie in the Broadacre Hotel the night before too.”

Ah, the Broadacre… That camaraderie in the hotel bar the night before is part of the fun, a chance to share a few libations, stories of past 72 Clubs, make bets with fellow members and boast about scores we’re going to shoot the following day. Playing the 72 Club without communing over a few drinks the evening before is like going to St Andrews and not visiting the Dunvegan or the Jigger Inn afterwards.

I was surprisingly unscathed after this year’s experience. I had a slight cut in the fourth toe of my left foot where the toenail of the little toe had cut into it. My back was a bit tight, my knees ached slightly, and I was a wee bit jaded. It wasn’t enough to make me cancel a game of golf on Woburn Golf Club’s Duchess Course the following day.

Proof that the 72 Club may have bowed me score wise, but it didn’t break me.

I can’t wait for next year!

Canada Calling

I’m off to Canada tomorrow for a few weeks to attend to important family matters, so not sure when my next offering will appear. Fear not, regular readers, normal service will resume upon my return.

#JustSaying: “You found quite a lot of bunkers this afternoon. I was getting ready to put you on suicide watch!” Playing companion Andy Norrington

Photograph by Jason Livy courtesy of Heady PR


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