Golf: a game that quickly calls in its debts

Not too long ago, Larry Ryan couldn't hold a club. But Ronan Collins, PGA Professional at Fota Island, knocked him into some kind of shape at Fota’s state-of-the-art Golf Academy. But is he dicing with danger?
Golf: a game that quickly calls in its debts

They warned me, after the last diary. Saw the signs I was getting in too deep. That this game could drive me to the bad.

“The blindness of the addict to hard drugs like golf is the most shocking thing. Don’t they see the dangers of experimenting,” cautioned Terence Cosgrave on Twitter, summing up the worry out there from victims who have taken this perilous road.

They wanted me to walk away, before I got mixed up in something that has brought fine men down.

But I got this. I can keep it casual with golf. A few holes now and again. Nothing serious. Friends with benefits.

So when the gaffer texts about the prospect of a quick nine at Fota, the only worry is he’s going to advise me it might be a decent time to start updating the CV.

But venerable chief sub, Tom Aherne is below too when I land, a man who reportedly gave Fred Daly a few key pointers ahead of Hoylake in ‘47.

So it’s all good. I’m hardly getting the heave-ho in front of Tom.

The only niggle on the 10th tee on the Deerpark course is my small toe. Down to my pal Eddie’s golf shoes, that he left in the boot of my car five years ago.

Two sizes smaller than ideal. But buying my own would be leaving a toothbrush in golf’s gaff.

Too soon.

I quickly renew acquaintance with an old friend. My bad shot. It remains a great sense of pride that I have one now to call my own.

So the wild slice right off the tee claims two balls. Throw in an impressive chip from the rough one side of the fairway into the water the other and we’re three new Titleists down on the first hole.

By the second, it’s back to the Penn I found in the shed, a relic of dabblings with that notorious gateway drug, Pitch & Putt.

The gaffer notes the wisdom of using your dud balls first, especially when you’ve rolled from the bed into the car and onto the teebox. Every day’s a school-day.

I can also see the lads have already mentally written Ronan off their list of potential teachers, so I’d want to knuckle down.

And it’s grand after that. A few straight drives. The odd presentable approach. The Penn came home with me. Ronan redeemed.

A beautiful morning in idyllic surrounds. No scorecards. A few Mulligans and take-it-agains. A bit of the old bantz. Golf as nature intended — ten-pin bowling with notions.

The gaffer drops a 20-footer. The lads are making pars. I’m managing bogeys. And there’s certainly enough there for a decent golf movie montage to the strains of the Hey Song.

Sure, there are little hints of the darkness that lurks close to the surface. After the gaffer bangs in a three-wood from improbable range to about four feet and then watches that four-footer slip by, there is something in the way he has to hit that four-footer another two or three times before leaving the green that suggests this is not a place where you should ever come to find peace.

Tom, meanwhile, is a man riding an indescribable high. A man who has found answers, who has unlocked life’s secrets. A man who has bought a new putter that is working for him. And best of all, he had a voucher.

Though it is impossible not to let it enter your mind that there must have been many new putters — and many new solutions — over the years. And again, you find it hard to consider this a place of peace.

The place had its fun with me too. The 13th, a par three — 200 yards off the whites, wind blowing in our faces.

A simple enquiry: would the big stick be too much? A snort from the gaffer and the promise of a fiver if it goes within an ass’s roar.

You know the rest. Of course, a mysterious force took charge and plugged one in the heart of the green. Of course I rolled the putt confidently down to 18 inches. Yes, Tom went to pick it up and bank the par. And yes, the gaffer generously insisted I be allowed the satisfaction of knocking it in.

And yes, of course, I boxed it three feet past.

A game that quickly calls in its debts. I’ll hold off on the shoes.

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