I had spent all of two plucky weeks finding my way around the News of the World when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself. A chance to fulfill a childhood dream playing golf on the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland.
But how do you tell your editor you’re taking off for a few days when you’ve been employed for, well, a few days? Fortunately my resourcefulness kicked in and after a string of tortured hearts and minds type metaphors on how our readers expected a little bit more, I was soon heading towards Scotland’s most cherished slice of common land.
I was just a girl from the colonies with a giddy obsession for all things golf. When you throw in the words ‘where the game was first played 600 years ago’ and follow that theory through to the end, you’ll appreciate this was an occasion worth augmenting.
With a new job underway and prosperous tabloid career ahead of me, I stepped into Tom Morris, the world’s oldest golf shop and walked out with a shiny new set of Titleist clubs.
It was time for the golfer in me to step up. The starter called my name. It was show time. My hands shook like a plucked guitar string, either nature’s way of expressing deep-seated feelings of exhilaration or the aftermath of too many fruity Chardonnays the night before.
Like a long lane that has no turning, the opening holes were peppered with hazards, gullies and double greens. Par, par, par, it was positively dreamlike. As I paced the revered fairways, I prayed the ‘Old Lady” wouldn’t let me down.
It was so far a scorecard too good to be true. Heather, gorse and sand traps had yet to register on my radar. Here I was taking on the boys like a president of the Smug Club whilst playing the birthplace of golf. Will this show never end? But even I knew maintaining this score was an impossible dream.
And then I stepped up to the 11th hole. I once read in some esteemed journal that this was one of the most celebrated par threes in the world of golf. To me 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 my partner looking on blindly. I knew it was good, but how good exactly demanded instant inspection. I grabbed my bag and sprinted 150-yards down the embankment and up towards the green. And there it was, my precious battered Callaway wedged neatly between the flagstick and the cup.
A 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.
I tiptoed over to a discreet corner of the green, pulled out my mobile phone and phoned Zimbabwe. “Hi Mum, guess what, I’ve just had a hole-in-one on the Old Course at St Andrews.” The line crackled. There was a pause. “I’m sorry sweetheart, it’s a bad line, can you speak louder,” she screeched. “MUM, I’VE JUST HAD A HOLE-IN-ONE ON THE OLD COURSE AT ST ANDREWS.”
Suddenly a fearless band of green-keepers appeared from nowhere, “Sorry lass, but no mobiles allowed on the course.” I hung up the phone. Thanks chaps, you really threw some sunshine down on that one.
But it was the twitching of the seagulls descending like locusts in their multitude overhead that seemed to spell out my goose was cooked. Adrenaline raced through me and my body shook like some wired partygoer at some 80’s beer fest. No matter, seven holes to go and I was determined to continue with cunning, guile and whatever shreds of talent remained.
After many celebratory hugs and high fives, we eventually moved onto the 12th hole, a great tactical challenge and home to a host of unpleasant bunkers. I teed up, gripped it and ripped it. As I scoured into the distance for my ball, someone pointed out a small white blob trickling down the footpath. I didn’t see it, but I’m told the ball barely made contact with my driver before it scuttled over the edge of the tee.
I won’t bore you with a shot by shot analogy of the remaining holes, but suffice to say either someone was looking down over me or a serious dose of humble piety kicked in. Save for the odd challenging pot bunker, I pulled it off. I really did get to dream my dream.
Who knows how many Zimbabweans have achieved a hole-in-one on the Old Course. And who cares, because for me those 18-holes were the epitome of life on a 5 x 3 played out in almost perfect unison at the historical Home of Golf.
Twelve years on, I’m still that same girl from the colonies. Only now I carry the News of the World in my heart, a P45 in my pocket and a hole-in-one from St Andrews on my scorecard.