Playing in any competition is nerve-wracking enough but this is not your average club medal that I’m talking about. Here at the Forest of Arden this weekend I find myself playing alongside some of the game’s legends at the European Senior Masters.
Ryder Cup heroes Steve Richardson and Eamonn Darcy were our playing partners as Golfhacker tagged along as we competed in the Alliance event. For someone with a 20 handicap, the pressure was on to keep pace alongside players who had won European Tour events and beaten the best.
“Next on the tee is Steve’s playing partner, Nick Kevern”, the tournament starter announced. With the crowd waiting for something special all I could think to myself was simple. Looking towards the sky I said a little prayer to the golfing gods.
“Don’t top it, for the love of god, please don’t top it.”
Taking aim and a deep breath, I was hoping not to embarrass myself in front of the knowledgeable crowd let alone the Ryder Cup stars who had the misfortune to be paired with a hacker.
It was now or never as I drew my 3 wood back from the ball. I’d love to tell you that it was a pure strike that sent the ball far down the fairway. Instead, I topped it. Thankfully, it was one of those better terrible shots that scurried about 60 yards. Needless to say, it was not the start I had wanted.
With the first pressurised shot out of the way, it did get better with some notable successes. The par 3 fifth was where I finally managed to get some points on the board in style. The tee shot may have hit the bunker but the bunker shot put me a couple of feet away from the hole. Sinking the putt meant that it worked out as a birdie based on my handicap. Kerching.
Further success came on the seventh and eighth as the flow began. For a moment, I looked like a real golfer. For a couple of holes, I didn’t feel like a high handicap player. For four holes, I was up there with the best. However, golf is all about consistency. The difference between the pros and the hacks is that they are consistently consistent. For mere mortals like myself, golf has a great way to bring you back down to earth.
In my case, it was the ninth hole. Rather than topping it, I got right underneath the ball as my tee shot headed to the heavens. With the afternoon sun hampering our view we all had no idea where it ended up. It couldn’t have gone far but the line was towards the woods. In that moment, I was a hacker again. I enjoyed the four holes where I felt like a king. However, it felt like a distant memory in a heartbeat.
The rest of the round became a scramble and yet it really didn’t matter. The company was brilliant, the course was beautiful and the experience of playing a round with legends of the game was simply amazing. This is what it was all about for the amateurs paired with the professionals during the Alliance event.
I may have picked up some points along the way that helped Steve in the team event but really that was just a bonus. For me, it was about spending time with my heroes. Playing on the same course in an event alongside the likes of Ian Woosnam, Paul McGinley, and Sam Torrance. My heroes from the past who inspired me to pick up a club in the first place.
That is what all of this was really about. The European Senior Tour is where all of that happens. Where you can rub shoulders with some of the game’s biggest names from yesteryear. However, it also reminds us why this game is so amazing. No matter your age or even your ability, you can still compete with the best around.