Ronan Collins, PGA professional at Fota Island, reckoned he could make some kind of golfer out of Larry Ryan in six lessons at Fota’s state-of-the-art Golf Academy. Did he succeed?
They have turned me loose.
After just four shots, it was clear how golf does it. How it sucks them in. How, despite all the terrible things about golf, the phenomenal levels of nonsense and absurdity and pomposity associated with golf, not the mind the difficulty of golf, it sends you home having fallen just a little bit in love with golf.
It was just as obvious that Ronan has got me mixed up in something that can’t be good for me, in the long run. Something that would need to be at least 20% easier to be healthy, to deliver some peace to match the surroundings.
This is the kind of love you should walk away from, before you get in too deep.
He came out with me, the first day, for a couple of holes. But we were getting photos taken, and you know how sensitive we serious golfers are when the cameras are clicking.
So I don’t think we need dwell on the horrors the camera saw, that day.
Instead, I went back again yesterday, on my own, for a proper plunge, to play the last four holes at Fota Island.
Four holes. Already we arrive at the crux that will probably save me from golf, that has slowed me from putting a deposit on a pair of plus fours. When would you possibly get the time for it?
Four holes. A Twitter era round of golf.
I realise, to stay in character as a serious golfing man, I’d need to provide a detailed, blow by blow, account of every shot played over those four holes; while you root in your pocket to get your phone to ring you, to spring an escape.
But let’s stick with edited highlights.
Excuses first, I’d disobeyed Ronan’s rule 101, and gone straight from the car to the tee box. Who has time for a warm-up and four holes?
So a little tentative, taking it handy, I knocked a gentle drive not too far, but straightish. Straightish at least in terms of where I was aiming.
“Is this a par four,” I enquire of the women arriving behind.
“It is,” they confirm, “but you’ve just made it a par five.” Dogleg left, I believe we call it. I’d erred on the side of right.
A par six, more like, when I find the ball behind a tree and in what I would describe as heavy rough, though it might be light rough.
In my mind, I guided a hybrid under the branches and up to pitching distance. In reality, I hit the tree and progressed 20 yards. More rough.
Flustered and anxious to edge out of the women’s sightlines, a hurried five-iron scuffed another 40 yards of progress. Did Collins teach me anything in six weeks?
Cursing him, I went through the checklist. Elbow in. Stand up tall. Shift the weight. And yes, hands in front of the ball.
The rest can only have been the devil’s work.
A 150-yard five iron to 15 feet. A shot to take home and pull out later.
Something almost sinister about it. As if the game decided it couldn’t mock this man too much too soon.
Two putts. A six. Sure the best of them can take six, from behind a tree.
Now, I’ll just casually say it: two pars in the next three holes. Sensible drives up the middle. Putts dropping. A 60-yard sand wedge to six feet. A five iron so sweet Ronan must find some way to cut and paste it into his CV.
And some other not so great shots we needn’t dwell on.
But two pars. Using the same ball I set out with. Enough to seduce. Enough to ask golf for its number.
And in between, on the 17th par three, a five iron tee shot. Not sweet but not too sour. A bounce left off the bank of the green. A duffed chip. A furious second chip with the touch of a shed. Three raging putts.
And frightening visions of a life being teased and mocked mercilessly.
That’s the damage Ronan has done. He has taken a man who couldn’t get a drive to go up in the air, a man who stood free and immune to the lure.
And he has given him enough to put him in grave danger. To have him pull that number out of his pocket and think about making that call.
Let that be on Ronan’s conscience.
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