Here’s the third of our extracts from Tom Cox’s ‘Bring me the head of Sergio Garcia’. Thoughts of pro golf are proving to be irresistible…
“I suppose it’s possible that, had things not happened the way they did that weekend, all this “Should I have a go at being a pro?’ might have drifted away, only to be remembered as a brief, fading-youth-related freak-out. Or maybe not. All I know is that the day following my party, after the final sleepover guests had staggered away, I had a visceral urge to hit some shots.
These are often the times that golf is most rewarding, I find: when it’s an unplanned thing, something that crops up on the shuffle mechanism of life’s iPod. There is no scorecard, no ‘Is it going to rain?’ anxiety. Quite simply, one balmy, hungover afternoon, you feel a bit of a second wind coming on, and you realise that there’s no place you’d rather be than in a patch of bastardised countryside, feeling the satisfying swish of metal against rubber. It would have been hard to be this impulsive with other sports. As I hopped straight onto the picturesque ninth tee with only a couple of friendly dog walkers to judge me, and compiled a string of three textbook pars, I was already thinking ‘This is the life! This is me!’ What came next was purely a bonus.
Over the years I’ve holed many spectacular golf shots. I’ve had twos on par fours, threes on par fives, slamdunked 180-yard iron shots, even brushed the hole with my tee shot on a couple of short par fours, but as I reached the tee of the par-three twelfth hole at Diss Golf Club in Suffolk that day, I was still yet to have a hole-in-one. Of course, as a good player, this wasn’t supposed to concern me. Hole-in-ones, as anyone who really knows about golf will tell you, are a fluke – nothing to get too worked up about in the grand scheme of things. They are also a bit of a bind, in that the main long-term result of them is that the holer must buy everyone in the vicinity a round of drinks afterwards – a tradition that may do more to sum up the inherent masochism of golf than any other. ‘Have you had a hole-in-one?’ is a question for the non-golfer to ask the golfer, but not a subject for men who know their lob wedge from their gap wedge. Nevertheless, in aesthetic terms, this one was worth waiting for. Not only did the ball come crisply off the clubhead, then drift gently in on the breeze, it found its intended target without bouncing. ‘Whumf!’ Straight down the hole, like the most nimble, spacially aware rabbit you have ever almost clapped eyes on.
You expect some response after a shot like that. Applause at the very least. Instead, the late afternoon silence seemed even more deafening than usual. If a ball falls in a golf hole in the woods, and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it still count? I looked around, slightly frantically. But the ailing electric trolleys of the two middle-aged women playing ahead of me had crept over the brow of the hill in the distance. Where, when I needed him, was the tracksuit-wearing man with the Rottweiler who had said ‘Nice shot!’ after seeing my sclaffed nine-iron land thirty feet from the flag on the previous hole? One part of me was thinking, “So, is this it?’ Another was admiring the purity, thinking, ‘How can you not take this as a sign?’ And then there was the final part, which was looking at the bigger picture, taking a ‘glass in half full’ view of the situation – or, more specifically, a ‘glass won’t ever get filled in the first place’ approach – giving the other two parts a serious talking-to: this stays between the two of you, me and our bar tab.”