I have a friend. He is a veteran golf writer, master of the English language and one of life’s fiercest critics when it comes to spotting clichés. Not surprisingly this makes for dangerous ground since he not only frequents Golfmadchick.com, but as regular readers will know, this is a blog positively riddled with these vulgar, over-used, meaningless fillers.

According to him I am forbidden from using the words: picturesque, shrouded, idyllic, must see, etc. But since I have itchy feet and this blog is going somewhat off the beaten track, my January short sunshine break can only be described as … wait for it … a hidden gem!

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I Told You I Was Ill

I told you I was ill

It’s midday and I am lying in bed with more drugs raging through my system than an aging rocker on a day trip to Pfizer’s world-renowned research lab. I have acute bronchitis. It is day eight. I wouldn’t mind so much, but it‘s the second bout in two months and what’s worse … it’s my office Christmas party tonight.

While friends and colleagues are reaching for their most festive bib and tucker, the postman is attempting to deliver yet another box of golf shoes through the front door. Only trouble is, every time I attempt a get-out-of-bed vertical manoeuvre, a drug induced head spin kicks in, resulting in an unseemly coughing fit which upsets the predictably unruffled pooch next door and drives our once hardcore postie to seek sanctuary at number 130.

And it is at house number 130 where approximately seven immaculately wrapped boxes of golf shoes await me. It could be more. It could be less. I stopped counting after purchase five.

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Lest We Forget

Tower of London

HONOURING THE FALLEN

The first thing that hits you are the crowds standing in their thousands side by side in respectful ghostly stillness interrupted only by random bursts of camera flashes.

“Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” is a reminder that the best art can imitate life — and death.

The poppy is a simple, yet significant symbol. To think that one poppy is one life and to see the sheer volume of red is emotionally draining.

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2014 Centenary Bowl Champions

Hearty congratulations to the 2014 Centenary Bowl champions: Wimbledon Park Golf Club.

Despite some tight matches and tough competition against the Leatherhead ladies, our girls in green waltzed in with a storming 5 – 0 victory to take home the silverware.

The final of the scratch knock out team competition took place at Kingswood Golf Club in Surrey and produced a day of thrilling performances on and er, off the course.

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Wryter Cup 2014

Wryter Cup 2014Dubbed the Blitz of Biarritz, it quickly plummeted into Blitzed in Biarritz, as two competing societies The Press Golfing Society (PGS) and the Association de la Presse et du Golf (APG) thrashed it out for the 24th Wryter Cup in France.

Hosted by Golf de Chantaco in the charming coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a dozen miles south of Biarritz and close to the Spanish border, it is one of the most famous courses in the Basque country with exceptional views of the Pyrenees.

Home to the Lacoste family, this great golf club is steeped in history … as is the PGS, now in it’s 110th year.

Yet despite those many years of experience, the Wryter Cup proved to be a resounding victory for the APG team with a final score of APG 18.5 – PGS 13.5.

WARNING: This film contains scenes which may cause (the PGS team) distress

Ryder Cup 2014

Europe and the US are ready for battle in golf’s Ryder Cup. Oh, and Ukip leader Nigel Farage has popped up in a pretty cool Paddy Power ad for the contest too.

Rory McIlroy

The world is a precarious place. Britain may be at war by the weekend. Scotland is more divided than ever before. The Queen is not amused with our prime minister. The leader of the opposition forgot the deficit. And now, Ukip’s Eurosceptic chief Nigel Farage has come out swinging in support of Europe (see video below).

Just when you thought life couldn’t get any more fractious, Europe and America are set to storm the battlefield tomorrow, for the glory of Gleneagles – at the 40th Ryder Cup.

The solitude and quietness of this Scottish links will be replaced with three glorious days of fist-pumping, chest-bumping, eye-popping, throat-roaring, high-fiving antics by the cream of European and American golf. And we aren’t just talking about Nigel Farage here.

Europe captain Paul McGinley holds the trophy ahead of the 2014 Ryder Cup (Reuters)

A quarter of a million golf-mad spectators are expected to descend upon the longest inland course in Scotland for golf’s greatest spectacle taking place this weekend.

“The finest parcel of land in the world I have ever been given to work with,” is how course designer and golf legend Jack Nicklaus described the rolling moorland with a feast of breath-taking views over the Perthshire Straths.

The stakes are high on both sides. There is everything to lose but only one 17-inch, four-pound trophy up for grabs. The intensity on the riders, rookies, wild cards and veterans is white hot.

Even the absence of the much-loved Tiger Woods has failed to dampen the mood. The former number one has assured Team USA he will be with them in spirit and will be tuning in from his sickbed to see “how my guys are doing”.

Spectators supporting the US Ryder Cup team (Reuters)

The world’s leading players are backed by a glamorous team of wives and girlfriends. The GWAGs are on show to support their men and their teams. Fashion stakes are high as star-spangled, face-painted ladies take on their flag-waving European counterparts.

The weather forecast, which calls for passing showers and fresh 15 miles per hour westerly winds, will do little to deter two patriot teams bursting with passion and pride.

Captain Paul McGinley’s men are the overwhelming favourites to retain the coveted Ryder Cup trophy, while rival skipper Tom Watson’s Tiger-less team is made up of secret weapons, street fighters and a man called Rickie with USA engraved on his head.

Yet for this famously unpredictable event, one thing is certain. When this head-turning showdown tees off, smoking their drives to roars from the galleries, a nation will be gripped by the twists, turns, tears and tantrums right down to the barnstorming charge for Ryder Cup glory.

A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED ON CHANNEL 4 NEWS

Happy Noughties Birthday

Royal Ashdown Forest Golf ClubIn my experience heterosexual males are lousy at remembering birthdays. Facebook and Twitter has helped occasionally attract their attention to your really big day and nothing can beat persistent vocal reminders along the lines of, ‘I really can’t believe that next month I shall actually be 40.’

The combination of these three prompted one of my male colleagues to come up with a surprisingly bright idea, although I strongly suspect that he was really angling to celebrate his birthday which also ended in a nought, only in his case the big six-oh.

‘Let’s get a noughties four-ball up’ he chirped. I left it to three guys, one 50 this year, the one coming up 60 and another 70 in September. I was the baby of the group and only had to show up which is where things got complicated.

After more on-line discussion amongst the men than it took to prepare for the D-Day invasion of Normandy they finally had it sorted and we made our way down to Royal Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, some 30 minutes spin away from Gatwick Airport in leafy and affluent Forest Row.

Hayley Barlow (40), Ian Woods (50), Stephen Killick (60) & Chester Stern (70)

Hayley Barlow (40), Ian Woods (50), Stephen Killick (60) & Chester Stern (70)

Ashdown usually welcomes summer three-balls in the same manner the Ku Klux Klan 4th of July barbecue welcomes a reggae band, as it is a determinedly traditional and two-ball club. But because there was a big corporate society day of four-balls going out we could set out after them, and the ‘old’ guy who was 60 is also a member.

The clubhouse at Ashdown is like a big rambling old house one more normally associates with Norman Bates or a long dead Transylvanian who simply won’t lay down, but the atmosphere is friendly and the three of us had a great lunch sitting out on the terrace pre-golf, which did not do a heap for laser like accuracy on the golf course but was a damn fine way of having a joint birthday party.

A couple of bottles of Chablis to help down the chicken Caesar salad and then the men insisted on kummel, that caraway liqueur that is sold at all the proper golf clubs, and we were ready to bring the course to its knees.

Now the Old Course at Ashdown may have no bunkers but it is not some sweet old pussycat that lets you tickle its tummy; far from it. There are streams, ditches, thick heather, firm greens with slippery borrows and run-offs and, just as taxing, some pretty stiff climbs.

The views over the forest when you reach the summit at 11 are stunning but there are still some more climbs having come down so we were thrilled to see the drinks cart bring us a refreshing, ice-cold beer on 13.

We finally got back to the clubhouse a rather weary noughties’ birthday trio. Having one last celebratory Pimms back on the terrace the Ashdown member told us the club’s West Course is shorter and flatter and positively welcomes three and four-balls.

So in 10 years time we are planning to get all four of us out, but most likely in buggies, and do it again. Here’s hoping.

Playing a round in Ireland

Westport GC, Ireland

Fourteen ladies flew to the west coast of Ireland to play golf.  

This is what happened:

Westport Golf Club

Situated on the shores of Clew Bay in the shadow of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s famous holy mountain, Westport boasts fantastic views of the surrounding area from its elevated position. Plays like a rolling parkland on the first nine and then more like a links on the back nine – which calls for character. One of the very best parkland courses I have played on in Ireland. For best results,  play with a blinding hangover.

5.0 stars from 5

Enniscrone Golf Club

I’m not sure which word best describes this links course: dramatic or difficult. They call it the award-winning Enniscrone Golf Club for a reason. Sensational layout, majestic views and positively the most ridiculously intimidating approach shots to what can only be described as eccentric greens.  I peaked with an easy birdie on the first hole and after that it was quite literally all downhill for me.

5.0 stars from 5

Carne Golf Links

If God created a better golf course … he kept it for himself. I last played this stunning links course almost a decade ago and just like a fine wine over the years it has matured, ripened and blossomed with age. Carne Golf Links lies in magnificent unspoiled sand dunes overlooking Blacksod Bay and the wild Atlantic Ocean near the town of Belmullet. Everything that links golf should be. Unforgettable!

5.0 stars from 5

News of the World: The End

When the phone-hacking allegations piled up and eventually took down the News of the World, I was there to witness it all.

Here is my story, from diary extracts during the last week of the newspaper, as published on Channel 4 News this week.

Click on picture below to take you to diary

Hayley Barlow News of the World

 

Video: inside the News of the World on the very last day

 

Follow Hayley on Twitter

 

 

US Open 2014

US Open 2014 PinehurstIt is the greatest sport in the world and after a year of intense preparation and anticipation, it has finally arrived. That’s right, golf’s US Open kicks off today. 
 
Four nail-biting rounds of Major Championship golf featuring all the tantalizing drama, meltdowns, memories, heartache, last day gallops and shock victories.
 
Forget the World Cup frenzy, its US Open fever gripping the Channel 4 News communications department as the world’s best players take on the sand hills of North Carolina. I wasn’t expecting fist-pumping levels of fanfare from golf-mad colleagues, more a gentle surge in sporting enthusiasm. Frankly the opposite was closer to reality.
 
“Golf? I’d rather eat swede than watch it,” sniffed Jon Snow who insisted he’s more of a tennis man.
 
I turned to co-presenter Cathy Newman for support: “US Open fever? I think you’re more likely to bring people out in a cold sweat!”
 
US Open golf 2014

Multi-tasking at Channel 4 News

 

With the World Cup kicking-off on the same day, perhaps I’d misjudged the samba spirit of the newsroom. Unlike Rio, there won’t be anyone called ‘Pitbull’ or Jenny from the Block opening the tournament belting out ‘Ole Ola’ on the first tee.
 
In fact, this year’s line-up won’t even feature the injury troubled Tiger Woods. The absence of the fun-loving former champion has sent ticket sales at Pinehurst plummeting, but the next four days will be a spectacle of high-wire unpredictability as golfing greats battle it out for a purse of US$8,000,000 on the old money course.
 
After a winless season and a tumultuous 2013, newly single Rory McIlroy is the bookies favourite as he eyes up a second US Open title. The Northern Irishman has said that he will go into this year’s second major full of confidence. If his dazzling performance on the course post break up with ex-fiance Caroline Wozniacki is anything to go by, you might fancy a flutter on the broken hearted Ulsterman. But at the risk of alienating more of my colleagues waxing lyrical about this plucky sporting god in laboured prose, as McIlroy himself recently put it: “It’s time to move on.”
 
My personal favourite to win the Championship is top leftie golfer and all round decent guy Phil Mickelson. The six times runner-up needs this victory to complete a career grand slam. It’s a hefty ask of a man who is playing the worst golf of his career, who can’t recall a top 10 finish and who is currently under investigation by the FBI for insider trading violations.
 
That said the man is a chipping giant. On a course with upturned saucers passing as greens and unforgiving shaved run-offs, the US Open will be won by a single-minded, short game god who can pull miracle shots out of his bag time and again.
 
Poignantly this was something Mickelson failed to do in 1999 when he let his first chance at a US Open victory slip away on the same course finishing a shot behind the late Payne Stewart.

Fifteen years on, the killer rough and narrow fairways on Pinehurst No. 2 have been replaced by wide fairways and expansive waste areas and now are teeming with passionate crowds who have descended upon the 114th U.S. Open Championship.

Substitute the cries of over-zealous and over-served fans screeching ‘Get in the hole!’ after every golf shot with the deafening instrument of torture, the infernal Vuvuzela that assaulted our eardrums four years ago, and you might briefly think you were at the World Cup.
 
It was this argument I put forward to our genteel Liam Dutton, the agreeable Channel 4 News resident weatherman, in some vein hope that it might stir up potential interest from a notable sports obsessed sleeper. 
Looking scornful, Liam slowly rose to his feet: “The only thing more boring than football is golf.” And with that he was off.
 
If anybody needs me over the next four days, I shall be at my desk watching the US Open Championship … alone!
US Open 2014
This article was first published on Channel 4 News on 12 June 2014. 
Follow @Hayley_Barlow on Twitter.
Golf offer cyprus

CYPRUS LADIES OPEN COMPETITIONGolf offer cyprus

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5th – 12th October 2014 : 7 nights in a 5 star luxury hotel, 4 rounds of golf, airport transfers, premium all-inclusive food package – all for just £975 per person.

Aphrodite Hills is set on a stunning plateau overlooking the crystal waters of the Mediterranean. It is home to a magnificent 18-hole championship golf course and dedicated golf academy. Visually spectacular, the course expands through indigenous olive and carob trees and is built on two plateaux, separated by a dramatic ravine with outstanding views over the ocean.

Golf in Cyprus

Golf in Cyprus

This competition is open to all lady golfers with a valid handicap certificate.

For the full itinerary or to enquire about this special offer contact Red Tee Breaks here

Book now and get a free pair of golf shorts with matching cap from our friends at Royal and Awesome.

Cancer Survivor

Cancer Survivor“Your mother has cancer” … Ironically four little words that almost killed me. It was the deluge of tears that made for poor visibility as I sprinted out of the newsroom and across Gray’s Inn Road while furiously Googling: ‘Mum has breast cancer what do I do?’ which resulted in a face-first near miss with the 341 bus.

Why don’t they ever say your mother has a touch of the dreaded disease about her or she’s come down with a bad bout of the invasive ductal variety? It’s the word cancer I don’t like as it reeks of a Stephen King book review: “An eponymous being, which exploits the fears and phobias of its victims in order to disguise itself while hunting its prey.”

And so our journey began, not least with the bus driver who shook his head in disbelief as I sheepishly cambered aboard, but a longer more ambiguous voyage into the unknown. One that involved really long needles, unpronounceable medical terms, spasms of anxiety, overwhelming pride and a NHS nurse called Paula.

My Mum is an old school, tough as old boots, no-nonsense kinda gal. She is also unflinchingly generous, fiercely loyal, extremely loving, extraordinarily good company and my very best friend. Up against the backdrop of a cancer diagnosis, I’m throwing inspirational, courageous and gutsy into that heady mix too.

Her breast cancer was a picked up in February this year after a routine mammogram at Kingston Hospital in Surrey. No lump, no discomfort, no visible signs. Simply two scans taken three years apart that didn’t quite match up. And that is when the NHS machine started up. The UK’s biggest employer, which comes in for a kicking all too regularly but ultimately, saved her life.

You don’t often read about Betty, the kindly hospital volunteer who greets the patients and visitors with a supportive smile making that long wait for the next batch of test results all the more endurable.

Or the dashing Mr Davies who took as long as it took to explain the information overload while our heads spun with the immensely complicated surgery and reconstruction options and never once looked at his watch.

Or Doctor Cummins who smiled as he uncrossed my fingers as I sat next to Mum before telling us that her lymph nodes were all clear.

Or the Oncology Specialist who hugged Mum and wiped away her tears after stating she wouldn’t need chemo or radiotheraphy.

Breast cancer survivor

But above all there was Paula. Lovely cancer nurse Paula. In my view she has the worst job in the world, but is the very best person for it. She’s at your side from the outset, throughout the shock, the tears and the endless questioning phase. She doesn’t just weigh you down with literature, she talks you through it and then she listens.

Next comes the operation and she’s at your bedside, albeit vaguely visible through the smog of anesthetic. And still she’s by your side again during those frequently tense moments that determine your recovery, your treatment and ultimately, your future. But she wasn’t just there for my Mum. She was right there with my Dad and me too. And after every consultation, she moved onto the next breast cancer patient and their family and to the family after that. Day after day … sensitive, supportive and always smiling.

A statue of lovely cancer nurse Paula should be erected outside the Sir William Rous Unit with the words: “Every hospital needs a Paula.” And I’m sure they do.

About 48,000 women get breast cancer in the UK each year. The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life is about 1 in 8. The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 36. The statistics are terrifying. But thousands of people do beat cancer every year and my Mum was one of the lucky ones.

Early detection can make a real difference. And if it weren’t for the NHS alerting her to the mismatched mammograms and the subsequent medical care, I would be writing her obituary now. Instead, to quote my Mum: “No one can beat cancer on their own. I didn’t choose this journey, but that is why I will always be eternally grateful to my hugely supportive family, my wonderful mates from around the world, the life-saving NHS and to my dear friend Paula.”

Breast cancer ribbon

Don’t ‘like’ this article. Instead why not text BEAT to 70099 to donate £3 from your mobile phone. One day we will beat cancer, the more research they do, the sooner that day will come.

Follow Hayley on Twitter

Mid Ocean Golf Club

Royal Mid Ocean Golf Club

It all started off so promisingly as the young man in a bow tie rushed up to me in the car park. “Miss Barlow” he shrieked, arms outstretched in my direction. “Welcome to Mid Ocean Golf Club, the jewel in Bermuda’s golf crown.”

Wow! What a welcome I thought, looking startled and vaguely bemused. I tried to deduce if this was the typically friendly Bermuda way, an over excitable PR executive or someone I had met at The Swizzle Inn after one too many Dark and Stormy cocktails.

The answer to this quandary arrived on the plucky 5th hole where I found myself ankle deep in the shimmering Mangrove Lake. How I got there and how many attempts I took to get out is irrelevant.

More importantly however, was that my friend bow-tied Charles, who had been closely monitoring my every shot from the shade of Bermuda’s local flora, found himself scurrying up to me, arms outstretched once more.

“Maisie, Maisie, it’s not too late. Take a drop,” he pleaded, his voice beyond shrieking. And as the crystal clear waters lapped at my bare ankles, I stared up at him and hollered: “Who the hell is Maisie?”

And so ended the shortest friendship known to man, lasting a mere four and a half holes because according to Charles, Maisie Barlow is a professional golfer on the LPGA circuit. Hayley Barlow is an amateur golfer whose swing, short game and course management bears little resemblance to anything bordering on the professional.

Charles looked utterly crestfallen. Not only was his idol playing like a complete fruitcake, but as it turned out, I wasn’t his idol at all.

Hard to know how you recover from something like that. Charles and I could have gone on to great things. But more pressing perhaps, I was yet to get my ball back on to something resembling greenery.

Following Charles’ advise, I took a drop, lost the hole and went on without my fan club of one to play what I only describe as one of the world’s greatest golf courses.

Mid Ocean Golf Club is private 6,520 yard, 18-hole golf course in wealthy Tucker’s Town. Designed by Charles Blair Macdonald in 1921 it is consistently placed amongst the world’s courses. The Atlantic Ocean provides a stunning backdrop, while the holes are largely set amongst pretty glades and dramatic valleys.

I’m truly sorry that Charles never got to realise his dream, but if it’s any consolation, I certainly got to realise mine in the shape of Mid Ocean Golf Club.

Follow Hayley on Twitter

Jalapeno & Cheese Heaven

Jalapeño Heaven

England is under water. My golf course resembles a swamp and it’s been over three months since I’ve swung something called a golf club. Until that moment returns when I have worked out which end of the stick to hold again, my blog is venturing into new areas. For now I’ve abandoned the sodden shores of the UK for sun kissed Isle Maurice. Mauritius to you and I.

Before I share the joys of this paradise island on my next post … here’s a little spontaneous culinary delight I prepared this morning from memory after spotting a pack of Jalapeño Poppers at Chez Popo, the local supermarket across the road – delicious!

Heaven in your mouth

Jalapeño Poppers and Cheese Snack Attack

Slice one side of the Jalapeño chilli length ways – making a rectangular gap – leave the stalk.

Scoop out all the pips and what not – and don’t rub your eyes.

Add Tartare soft cheese into the cavity – already mixed with yummy herbs and garlic (it may be called by another name elsewhere but that’s what it’s called here).

If you’re feeling super adventurous (which I wasn’t) add grated Cheddar or Parmesan cheese to spice things up.

Sprinkle over a little cayenne pepper and Aromat seasoning.

Pop them on a tin foiled lined baking tray into the oven at 400 degrees fahrenheit for about 15-20 mins.

Bish, bash, bosh – get eating!

PGS Captain's Dinner 2013

They say all good things must come to an end. And what an end it was too. The annual dinner at the Frontline Club to round off an incredible year being captain of the wonderful Press Golfing Society society. 

SKIPPER’S SPEECH

PGS Captain's Dinner 2013

Something happened on the way to dinner tonight. Jon Snow phoned me from Sri Lanka. It’s too late Jon, I told him, you had your chance to perform in front of my guests … and you blew it. Royally.

Listen to me, he says, this is a really bad line and I can’t speak for long but I wanted to tell you something really important … I’m in a karaoke bar in Colombo and they’ve got American Pie on the jukebox. Do you think it’s too late to arrange a duet for your dinner?

Several weeks ago Jon and I and several other thirsty hacks popped out for a quick drink followed by dinner at the local Italian. I’m not entirely sure what happened over the next few hours, but before I knew it, Jon and I, two Spag Bols to the wind, found ourselves in a karaoke bar performing a determined duet of that timeless classic American Pie.

Seriously though Hayley, he says, this has been bothering me for a while, if you’re so good at golf and winning all this silverware, why are you at Channel 4 News and not a golf professional earning millions?

I can’t chip.

You can’t skip?

Chip Jon chip, I can’t chip.

I heard you, but why can’t you skip?

My knees collapse!

I would have thought collapsing knees would be useful for skipping?

Jon, don’t you have American Pie to go and sing?

You’re absolutely right Hayley, he says, I just wanted to phone and tell you once again how truly sorry I am to have dropped you in it leaving you guest speaker-less at the 11th hour. I know how desperately hard you’ve been trying to find someone of a similar ilk at such short notice – and I hope your guests have an opportunity to see me grilling you about your recent golf victory on screen. (See video below)

So in the absence of Jon Snow … and a roll call of distinguished names who all turned me down … for tonight, or at least for the next 20 minutes can we all just take this opportunity to pretend that … I am exceptionally well known, a bit of a national treasure if you will, exceedingly wealthy, mind-blowingly skinny and with an uncanny ability to get up and down from 16-yards off the green.

Big Mac I can only assume I am here today because of my subtle and layered tones singing American Pie on previous Wryter Cups with you. And for that I say, you chose wisely.

I was incredibly honored the day Big Mac plucked me from obscurity to be his vice captain. And if my vice captain was here tonight  … I have no doubt he would be saying the same thing. Except that he isn’t here. Despite the fact this dinner… the prestigious captain’s dinner… the ceremonial handing over of the bling dinner has been in the PGS diary for the last 109 years.

When I think back to the great and the good that have been in this celebrated position before me, from Lord Emsley Carr to the late great Bob Warren, I can’t help but wonder … what the hell has happened to this society.

Now some of you may have heard that our French friends, the APG, recently suffered a devastating loss – at the Maul in Porthcawl. Now I am not, for the sake of an easy laugh, going to exploit our Parisian opponents, their youth, inexperience in the bar or inability to stay awake past 10.30pm.

The PGS is already on shaky ground with the French Wryter Cup team, given the last time we saw them they were glaring at us while standing nearly naked in a Welsh hotel car park at 4 in the morning – through no fault of their own – two hours before they were to depart on their 9-hour drive back to Paris.

I am delighted that so many of my Wryter Cup champs could be here tonight – with the hand of history upon your shoulders. I have to admit there are days when life seems comparatively dull since our return. And on those rare dull occasions … I turn to a little number crunching to cheer myself up: 8-nil whitewash, 20-12 romp to victory, one victorious woman captain … and above all else … every single member of the Wryter Cup team brought in at least one plucky point.

A lot of people have asked did I adopt an insufferable Colin Montgomery or an amiable Ole style of captaincy. The answer is neither – as my teammates will confirm. I adopted a robust Mugabe-esk take no prisoners approach, and rather hoped that by emulating Zimbabwe’s redoubtable leader and his authoritarian style of no nonsense leadership, the team would readily fall into line. Alas, it was not to be.

My two golden rules for success … just say NO to negativity and always remember … Mugabe expects. Not surprisingly I had to issue one particular member of my team with his own set of rules which included among others: don’t leave your shower running between the hours of 3 and 4am as it will result in a) the fire alarm sounding, b) the entire hotel being evacuated and c) 16 angry nearly naked Frenchmen glaring at us from across a hotel car park.

But back to the Wryter Cup, I will never forget the look on Paolo’s face when he walked off the course after the afternoon’s 4-balls to a sea of blue shirted, beer guzzling, grinning, PGS’s standing around the 18th green … to be told that everyone in our team had won their matches and achieved an incredible 8-nil whitewash. A priceless look of sheer disbelief. And this is a man who had to witnesses some heady defeats in our team over recent years.

It has been suggested by some unkindly folk, that far from spending months strategising about my 4-ball and foresomes pairings, I simply I struck lucky, when I jotted down names on the back of a fag packet while being chauffeured down the A3… and that’s simply not the case … we had already crossed the Severn bridge and we were well into Wales when I came up with our winning combos.

I never thought I would say this, but there are several things I will miss about being PGS captain. The golfers who have quite simply become amazing friends, having my own uber professional personal secretary in the form of Paolo, teeing off on the first at the Berkshire meeting and not least the free beer.

Here’s the thing, it’s a tactic I developed called meaningful communication … throughout the year, I discreetly mentioned to a number of key players that should they not qualify for the Wryter Cup team, I would be considering them for a wild card. And in a matter of seconds you would hear those glorious words: “Skips would you like a bottle or a pint?”

The only thing I will not miss … my regular public addresses to you.  My recent Wryter Cup experience proved somewhat of a linguistic adventure.  What kind of crazy fool came up with the notion that it would be a good idea for our “not a single word of French-speaking PGS captain” to make her victory speech in French.  Fortunately the French team and I have more in common than you think. Coming from a small remote African village – we both have English as our 2nd language.

They say some life changing moments happen on a golf course. And there’s no doubt – despite the fact that my perfect prose were laboriously phonetically transcribed by the Corky in return for a lifetime of Gin and limes, delivering those perfect prose in a foreign tongue was certainly life changing.

2013 Captain's SpeechSeveral years ago I had another life changing moment on a golf course. In fact it was one of the more surreal moments in my life – the day I got engaged on the 13th tee.

The boyfriend and I had been going through a somewhat difficult period of late and we were on what you might call a make or break week away in the depths of France somewhere.

We found ourselves playing golf on this charming course, a lot of water, lightening greens …. More to the point I found myself 5 up with 6 holes to go.

There I was standing on the 13th tee, driver in hand and mentally psyching myself up for his imminent and crushing defeat, when he suddenly turned to me and said: I think we should get married.”

I’m sorry what?!?!

And then it happened … down he gets down on one knee… “Will you marry me?”

And I’m like “For the love of God will you please get up.” I can’t help but notice that little groups of Frenchmen in the distance are peering in our direction, pointing their golf clubs with vaguely bemused expressions.

Then from nowhere he produces this shiny, silver, immaculately sized … Wrigley’s wrapper in the shape of a ring. Are you friggin kidding me with this? Sweet baby Jesus, I beg of you, please get up.

He’s having none of it. And now he’s going on about selling up our place in London and moving to France. I kindly suggest that if he gets up now I give him a couple more shots over the last 6 holes. No! I’ll throw in a mulligan. Still no.

By this stage the little Frenchmen have now become a small gathering just off the 13th tee. He’s still down on his knee and now he’s going on about wanting us to have lots of children … at least three, he says. I think about this for a second, there’s an obvious positive and negative to having children. On the plus side, what if they share the same gene pool as Seve? And on the flip side, what if they inherit his putting and my chipping?

By now he’s in full flow and completely oblivious to the growing French numbers surrounding our tee. I couldn’t tell if they spoke English or not, but I could tell they weren’t moving on until they heard a “wee-wee monsieur” from me. The pressure was palpable.

And so it was, in a less than romantic setting, with an audience of little Frenchmen and a Wrigley’s wrapper for a ring on my finger, I reluctantly agreed to marry this man … who I have to say, I was not sure I was even entirely crazy about.

Now I could end the story there and start a slide show of what should have been our cherubic children … or I could tell you how this became the shortest engagement in living history.

Once the crowds dispersed, I was able to get back to the business at hand – this crushing defeat. But it was while striding down the fairway, driver in one hand and ring on the other, that the enormity suddenly hit me.

There I was, a bump and run from victory except somehow I’ve just agreed to walk down an aisle, move to France and have three children.

I have to tell you the thought proved mind-blowingly distracting over the next six holes. In fact, the effect to my golf swing was somewhat catastrophic, the ball was sprayed around left and right, in the water, behind trees and if you thought I couldn’t chip before the proposal … I don’t need to explain how ugly that turned.

In essence, he wrecked my game. And it dawned on me that if four little words could cause such devastation to my game, could you imagine what three little children could do.

It was a dizzying time and before I knew it I was standing on the 18th green dead even with my now fiancé … who was contemplating a nasty downhill 6 footer to half our match.

And it was while he was stood over his putt, that I had made my 2nd rapid-fire decision of the day. If he slots in that putt, I’m getting married. If he misses, the engagement is off.

He missed. Granted it wasn’t the crushing defeat that I had hoped for or the longest of engagements.

But before you all start feeling too story for him, I have since learnt that he went on to marry a delightful Russian lady and they have three charming little daughters.

On the plus side, I got to keep the ring.

Before we get to the most important part of the evening … the last time we get to hold our trophies before they’re left on tubes, trains, taxis and in skip in Southend … a few very grateful thanks.

Huge thanks to our Paolo. Without him and his constant support for me this year and the society year after year, we would have frankly all ended up in a skip in Southend.

To all everyone in the PGS, it has been an amazing year as your captain – a genuine privilege and an honour.

To all our new members, you’ve given something very special back to the PGS this year, not least the Wryter Cup.

You’ve embraced the society and everything that it stands for … the friendship, the humour, the banter, supporting each other when the chips are down, both on and off the course and above all … having fun.

That is why this year I choose to present the Vic Woodman trophy in memory of a great man to rookie Laura Cork – someone who has quite literally embraced all that the PGS has to offer … and always with a slice of lime.

To LoudmouthGolf for sponsoring our magnificent trews in Wales – I’m not sure we could have done it without you.

And finally to my Wryter Cup champions … what else can I say, except … “We’ll always have 8-nil.”

Merci beaucoup.

Hayley teams up with IJP Design

Hayley tests new IJP Designs

IJP Design

It’s not often you receive an email with the words: “I work with Ian Poulter and his golf clothing line IJP Design … and we would love to invite you to join our exclusive testing panel for his new women’s golf range ahead of the full launch in spring summer 2014.”

Well, that’s exactly what I did receive. Once I had pinched myself to make sure this wasn’t a dream and then explained how I wasn’t exactly Zimbabwe’s golf swinging equivalent of Kate Moss, it wasn’t long before the IJP bundles of happiness began to arrive at the front door.

The very first IJP Design ladies collection was launched on the 27 September and here’s the thing … I’ve worn nothing else since.

Poulter’s signature tartan pants have been re-created for the women in four soft colours: Raspberry, Taupe, Ultramarine and Golf Ball White. They have taken the tried and tested elements from the men’s range and mixed classic pieces with a stylish feminine twist. And it really works.

I never had myself down as a tartan wearing Zimbo criss-crossing Surrey’s lush fairways.

Watch this space … it’s not just for Ian Poulter anymore.

IJP Design: awesome new ladies golf range

 

Wimbledon Park Golf Club

WPGC WPGC WPGCWPGC
WPGC WPGC WPGC WPGC WPGC

The Maul in Porthcawl

WRYTER CUP 2013 ROYAL PORTHCAWL

Wryter Cup captainIt was dubbed the Maul in Porthcawl, but after the first day of battle, Whitewash in Wales had a certain ring to it too.

It took five long and painful years of defeats to the French, but the Wryter Cup is finally back on British soil and firmly in the arms of the Press Golfing Society.

Veterans, rookies, wild cards … champions … I salute you all.

To our French friends, malchance et nous allons vous voir l’année prochaine.

Royal Porthcawl you are a very special beast of a course and the best that links golf has to offer.

A huge thanks to Loudmouthgolf for our magnificent trews. I knew we had made our mark when an elderly Porthcawler  approached me in the car park and asked where he ‘might acquire a pair.’

You all played your part in this year’s stunning 20-12 victory – no defeat, no surrender!

And now, if you’ll allow some excessive triumphalism and a rapid decline into mayhem, here’s a little film of the Maul in Porthcawl.

Warning: contains gratuitous images of red, white and blue.

Wryter Cup 2013: Meet the team

Skipper

2013 Wryter Cup teamFranco-British entente cordiale is once again set to go head to head for the XXIII Wryter Cup at Royal Porthcawl in Wales on 6 & 7 October 2013.

Qualification is a gruelling do-or-die selection process resulting in this year’s golfing crème de la crème of the UK media industry.

The record books currently stand at an level pegging 11-11 between the Press Golfing Society and Association de la Presse et du Golf.

Watch this space as the PGS attempt to wrestle the silverware back from our determined French rivals.

Follow @PressGolfSoc on Twitter for live #WryterCup action updates.

Hole-in-one

Hole-in-one

The latest sexism storm brewing over Muirfield and its cretinous male-only policy would be far less troubling if the wait for women’s membership hadn’t been 269 years and counting.

But any hope that, all these decades later, men in starched blazers are softening their stance on membership has been hit once more into the deep rough.

The anachronistic Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient stated before the world’s media that excluding women from clubs is not sexist, but part of “a way of life that some people rather like”.

His comical claim sent my mind reeling back to a bittersweet tale in 2000, the day I was offered a chance to fulfill a childhood dream of playing on the Old Course at St Andrews. With a giddy obsession for all things golf, I made my way to Scotland’s most cherished slice of common land where the game was first played over 600 years ago.

Like a long lane that has no turning, the Old Course is peppered with hazards, heather, gullies and gorse. As I crisscrossed the revered fairways in search of my ball, the experience was positively dreamlike.

And then I stepped up to the 11th tee. I had once read in some esteemed journal that this was one of the most celebrated par threes in the world of golf. To me in the cold of a winter’s day, it seemed just like any other plucky 150-yard par three.

The hole played directly into a harsh prevailing wind off the Eden Estuary. Falling temperatures and lashing rain did little to deter my enthusiasm. Teeth chattering and saturated I struck my 7-wood with perfect pitch. The ball soared through the air clearing the Strath bunker like a Kentucky show horse and disappeared onto the large elevated green.

“That’s in the hole,” shrieked an overexcited golfer looking on blindly. I knew it was good, but how good exactly demanded instant inspection. I grabbed my bag and sprinted down the embankment and up towards the green.  And there it was, my precious battered Callaway wedged neatly between the flagstick and the cup.

Hayley's St Andrews Hole-in-oneA perfect fluke! The heady feeling of euphoria was dizzying. A Tornado F3 fly-past followed.  Admittedly it was returning to nearby RAF Leuhers but I appreciated the personal touch.

Adrenaline raced through me and my body shook like some wired partygoer at an 80’s music fest. No matter, seven holes to go and I was determined to continue with cunning, guile and whatever shreds of talent remained.

I won’t bore you with a shot by shot analogy of the remaining holes, but suffice to say, those 18-holes were the epitome of life on a 5 x 3 played in almost perfect unison at the historical home of golf.

But as I we drifted towards the clubhouse, it was the twitching of the seagulls descending like locusts in their multitude that seemed to spell out my goose was cooked.

Entering the clubhouse bar with boundless exhilaration, the customary hole-in-one round of drinks offer was abruptly cut short by a determined badged-up lackey who singled me out from our crowd and hurriedly escorted out the front door.

No women permitted. My shoulders slumped. But I had a hole-in-one. My pleas mattered less to him and it quickly became apparent that not even perfect-fluking females are exempt from undeserving vilification at the R&A.

Clutching my handsome certificate, I celebrated my hole-in-one triumph with a Fanta in the car park.

To this day all good reasoning for that inexplicable episode eludes me on an otherwise perfect day. Yet thirteen years on here we are again, questioning the R&A’s wisdom of staging The Open, the world’s greatest golf tournament on a course with gender equality issues.

Perhaps Tiger Woods, the fun-loving world number one in pursuit of his 15th major golf championship, summed it up best yesterday when he said: “It’s time to shape the ball both ways.”

A version of this article first appeared on Channel 4 News 

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