Thursday, 19 August 2010

While some of the rules of rugby, especially around the breakdown, are about as mystifying as the Emissions Trading Scheme, compared to golf, rugby’s a relatively simple game.

To that end you had to have sympathy for the big-hitting Dustin Johnson when a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club in the most marginal of sand bunkers potentially cost him the US PGA title at the heinously-bunkered Whistling Straights. Unfortunately with golf, rules are rules!

It reminded me of lesson hard-learned when I first joined the Gore club, about the same time as former Southland lock forward Alan “Tiny” Byrne. Not only did the Big Guy take great pleasure in jumping all over me, at every opportunity, in our rugby-playing days, he had equal delight in pulling a fellow novice up on one of the quirky nuances of golf.

I had chipped on to the green from close proximity and had managed, more by good fortune than good technique, to roll the ball to within centimeters of the hole. Not wanting to hold up my playing partners, I proudly strode to my ball and tapped it into the hole to claim my par. Unfortunately I had not removed the flagstick because some of my other playing partners were still off the green.

“Two shot penalty”, Tiny triumphantly trumpeted to all within bellowing distance and he insisted the penalty stand, despite my remonstrations of “surely you’re not going to pull me up on that?”

There are, however, golfing Gods and on this day they looked down and decided revenge is best served cold. Some holes later, Tiny was starting to run out of steam and much like he did when he was locking the scrum for Southland, he opted for a short cut. So rather than haul his golf trundler all the way to the tee, he had left it some distance up the fairway from where he had played on to the green on the previous hole.

The big left-hander with the shortest backswing in the history of the game then teed off with much gusto and he absolutely spanked it. Had a eucalypt not interrupted its flight path, I’m sure his ball had the potential to advance some 300 metres up the fairway.

But as all weekend hackers know, golf is a cruel mistress and on this occasion Tiny struck the tree right in the guts. His bludgeoned ball ricocheted straight back 50 metres from whence it came and cannoned into in his golf bag and trundler.

I laughed aloud without knowing the full consequence of his misfortune. “Two shot penalty”, proclaimed another of our playing partners, hysterically.

“Surely you’re not going to pull me up on that?” came the pleading reply. Suffice to say, it fell on deaf ears.

* Finally, hearty congratulations to Riversdale’s now most famous sporting son, World junior triathlon champion Aaron Barclay. And heart-felt sympathies to the Campbell family for the loss of one of Southland’s most talented sporting sons. Rest in peace Jamie.


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