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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas – Friends

Welcome to my Christmas series highlighting characterisations of golfers I’ve played with over the years. A wide variety of people with a vast array of personalities enjoy this game. I’ve distilled them down into 12 types to entertain you over Christmas.

I obviously pre-wrote these so I didn’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. No flies on me. In other words, I’m currently incommunicado enjoying time with my family, eating and drinking too much and taking Izzy for long walks. So, in true BBC style, please do not respond to these blogs; they’ve been pre-recorded.

12. Friends

Robert Burns has penned many of my favourite lines of poetry. One simply reads:

“Here’s a bottle and an honest friend / What wad you wish for mair, man?”

I often feel the same way when I stand on a first tee with a fellow golf lover. Sometimes I think: it doesn’t get any better than this.

Burn’s short poem ends:

“Wha kens, before his life may end, / What his share may be o’ care, man?
“Then catch the moments as they fly, / And use them as they ought, man: / Believe me, happiness is shy, / And comes not ay when sought, man.”

These lines seem far more apropos now thanks to what we went through last year. If ever there was a wee bit of verse that preached carpe diem, then it’s these lines of Burns.

It seems fitting to quote this poem to end my series on the 12 Golfers of Christmas I penned in the days before the holiday period. I had all sorts of personalities written down, far more than the 12 I came up with, but I was always going to end it with a dedication to one of the main reasons I, many of us, play golf: friendships.

This stick and ball game is not so much about score, about birdies and bogeys for me. It’s about exercise, going for a good walk with my four-legged pal Izzy and, above all, camaraderie.

I’m fortunate to have many friends who play this game. Indeed, I’ve made many friends precisely because of this game. If I’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s just how important those friendships are, friendships I’ve probably taken for granted in the past.

Those of us who live in England are lucky right now inasmuch as we can still play golf in two-balls. However, the clubhouses are closed. So we turn up, head straight to the tee, play and then head straight home. While it’s great to get out and play, the experience just isn’t the same.

Part of joy of playing this game is the banter in the bar afterwards. The needle, the put downs, the jokes, the sharing of what’s just happened out on the course, the good, the bad and the ugly. An accumulation of stories and anecdotes build up over the years, and it’s those shared experiences that help build, sustain friendships.

It’s the same with annual matches, trips, playing with other friends we only see every so often. Those get togethers matter. More so now after the depression of last year.

I had to skip the 72 Club at lovely Littlestone Golf Club last year, an outing I look forward to as if it was Christmas since it’s played with a great bunch of people I only see once a year. It’s a calendar date I’ll now look forward to more in coming years.

I used to play in an annual England v Scotland match with three great mates. The fixture slid off the calendar when one of the group had the cheek to emigrate to Australia. The remaining three of us gave it a half-hearted attempt to play the match by substituting various replacements for our English mate turned Aussie, but it just wasn’t the same. Another, Andrew Hall, died this year and perhaps part of the sadness we all felt other than the obvious tragedy of a great life taken so young was that we would be denied the hope of another England/Scotland match down the road.

Myself and the other two participants in that England match – Berkshire professional Paul Anderson and Aussie based Simon Brown – had a zoom call recently to remember Hall, or Hallie as everyone knew him by. (The photo above shows the four of us – Anderson, Brown, me and Hallie – at The Berkshire.) We reminisced about our times together, and what struck me was that we didn’t really discuss golf shots or matches won and lost. What we remembered most were the meals we had together, the stories we told one another, the hi jinx got up to thanks to a few libations taken in the playing of those matches. They’re memories we’ll treasure forever thanks to bonding through our common love for golf.

Here’s to friendships created thanks to the best game ever invented.

#JustSaying: “And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere, / And gies a hand o’ thine, / And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught, / for auld lang syne.” Robert Burns

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