Thursday, 27 May 2010

Work - Who Needs It?

The plan was simple. Take advantage of the better weather and get nine holes in every night. Sadly work has got in the way and I'm knackered sitting in front of the keyboard and definitely too tired to even think about playing and even for a self-confessed practice freak there is no inclination to work on my game.

I did go out on Monday on my own for a few holes. I have to say it was a real mixed bag with some good shots and a few iffy ones. The course was deserted so I took the opportunity to sometimes play two balls and to also try out a different driver (my old R7 Limited), my old Odyssey 554 dualforce putter and a different wedge combination (PW, 52, 56 and 60). Admittedly I carried 15 clubs but who the hell was going to notice (note to self - count your clubs before the Stone Cup on Saturday).

The real problem I have with playing on my own and especially on a really sunny day is trying to see the damn thing especially if you are playing into the sun. I had that problem on the 15th. I had hit my drive left of the fairway bunker and decided to hit a simple 8 iron to move it forward as the sun was low and right in front of me. I hit it and it was a great contact but could I find it? I've no idea if I hooked or sliced it but it wasn't on the fairway. A nice freebie for someone.

I went up to the club late last night and spent some time working on bunker shots. I'd had a lesson last Sunday and was a sand guru while the pro was watching. When I went up in the afternoon it was as if I was hitting with a shovel. No consistency. Some were picked too clean and flew for miles (not ideal when you are only a few feet from the pin) and some were still in sand after my first attempt. I didn't start too well last night until I had my eureka moment and realised that I wasn't creating sufficient wrist angle to hit down and pop the ball out. Once solved I was pretty happy although distance control is still a problem. I think I can cure that by using the 60 degree wedge if I need to get it up and out quickly. I was even cocky enough to get shots out with my 52 degree wedge and even a 9 iron.

I had intended to go up and play or practice tonight but a day of head stress at work has left me bereft of energy, enthusiasm and commitment. I know I've let my followers down, the casual reader down and most importantly I've let myself down but hey I'm only human. Rest, refresh and gear up for the Stone Cup (two rounds over any of the three days of the long weekend). I'm aiming to go out with the big greedy on Saturday which has some decent golfers playing but is also a savage school in terms of the banter flying around. After that I'll decide which day looks better and roll up and see who I can get a game with.

All this typing has drained the last of my energy so I'm off to flop in front of the European golf highlights and watch the live action from the US.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 26

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Sun is Shining

Its been a very busy weekend. I played 27 holes at Royal Ascot yesterday on the hottest day of the year. My regular mucker Hywel runs a small society made up of old university mates and they needed someone to make up the numbers so I was glad to help out. The format was individual stableford followed by a 9 hole scramble whereby everyone tees off, the best shot is selected and both play from there and repeat until you hole out.

As with most societies it was a mix of those that play a bit and a few who were clearly once a year golfers. From a personal perspective I treated it as a pressure free practice round. I actually hit the ball pretty well but unfortunately I missed too many greens and seemed to be playing my third shots on first five holes from sand. Naturally this made scoring difficult and with the putter being decidedly lukewarm I struggled on the front nine.

The back nine continued in the same vein until I duck hooked my tee shot on the 14th and lost my ball. It seemed to knock my confidence and although I made par at the next and hit a good drive down the 16th I took on a risky shot from over 200 yards which didn't come off and resulted in another lost ball. I sort of lost interest after that and felling decidedly roasted from the sun was glad to get back to the sanctuary of the clubhouse for a cool drink and some food. In the end I managed 33 points to finish third overall. I hit 50% of fairways which on recent form was a marked improvement. Although I didn't three putt I still had 35 putts which was disappointing and only managed 11% of greens in regulation which was poor in anyones language. It was more frustrating as the approaches were well struck but either pushed or pulled.

I didn't really have the energy of the enthusiasm for the scramble even off the yellows. I started well with a tee shot to the heart of the green at the first, and three good shots to hit the second in regulation and made a par. I hit a superb drive down the third but found a bunker well out of range normally from the whites and we dropped a shot. We dropped another at the fourth (I can't even par it in a scramble!) and then made a single putt par at the next. We both missed the green at the par 3 6th (cardinal error) and went to +3 gross. I hit the green in two and we made par at the 7th and I hit the green at 8 for par. I hit a great drive down the last and found the green and so we finished +3 gross. However we got pipped on countback as Hywel and his partner also finished on the same score but had a birdie down the last hole. All in all it was a great afternoon. Everyone got very red (despite the suncream) and a few of the guys lost a lot of golf balls but they all seemed to like the course and enjoyed their day.

I went to the range this morning as it was the club foursomes at Royal Ascot (I hate that format) and so I couldn't get on even if I'd wanted a game. I was given some advice from one of the guys I played with on Friday and was keen to try it out. I have to say, it is surprising how a little thing can make a big difference. I wanted to make a turn and feel as though my left shoulder was dropping and pointing to the ball and that the right hip turned behind me. From that position it was very easy to rotate back and through and the ball striking and direction was much improved.

I got very hot in the blazing late morning sun and so got very tired. As I did I got more and more lazy with my swing and so a lot of old habits and in particular lateral hip sliding back and through reappeared with worrying ease. Still all in all a very good session and plenty to take out onto the course after work this week.

I went straight from the range to Maidenhead Golf Club for a lesson with my usual swing coach Grant Sayer. As it was beautiful day and ideal beach weather I thought it only right and proper to spend some time in sand. Bunkers had become an enigma to me and so it was a timely lesson. In a nutshell, the ball position had crept way too far forward and the set up was a little awry. After a few tweaks I was hitting it great. However after a bite of lunch, a siesta and watching a bit of the golf on TV I went to Ascot to work on it. It was nothing like the bunker lesson and I was back to square one. I'm not sure if it was the heat, too much golf or what but it wasn't good and is still very much a work in progress. I'll work on it later in the week and be on the phone to Grant if it's still Pete Tong.

The weather is set fair until midweek so I'm intending to go out now and play, play, play. I feel I'm tantalisingly close to it all coming together and hope that by getting out and playing rather than tweaking and refining I'll play myself into some form for the Stone Cup (two rounds of stableford over any three of the bank holiday weekend).

After all that playing and practice I need a lie down and some aftersun spray.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 24

Friday, 21 May 2010

Ticking over

It's been a quiet few days. I spent some useful time on the practice ground working on my pitching and reaped the benefits today of several hours on the putting green working on my chipping and putting. Swing wise I've just been trying to work on the better turn as per my recent lesson and it is slowly showing some signs of progress but it's still very much a one step forward, two back sort of thing.

I played with my regular partner Hywel at Ascot against a couple of really nice guys from the Golf Monthly forum today. I started off poorly. I played the first pretty solidly but had a nightmare down the second and was inconsistent up until I made a good five (net four) to win the seventh. I don't mind hacking it around in a friendly game or with Ascot members as they know me and my game but I find it so frustrating when I invite guests down or travel to their clubs to play like a fool. Fortunately it galvanised my game and I started to hit the ball a lot better on the back nine.

It was hard going in the warm sunshine and it looked like the "dream team" were going to struggle after turning one down. However Hywel raided the birdie bank and his approach to a foot at twelve (birdie nett eagle) put us two up. I made a parred the long par 3 thirteenth but lost to a birdie two but bounced back by making a par (net birdie) at the fourteenth. Hywel locked down a par at the fifteenth to go dormie three. I got hugely lucky at the next where I hooked my drive towards the OB (out of bounds) and watched it bounce back into play. I could have done with saving that for a medal round! A safe five nett four was enough to close it out and keep our record against allcomers from the forum intact.

I'm down to play in a small society match tomorrow at Ascot which will be tough going as the weather is set to get even hotter. On Sunday I've a lesson planned and I'm looking at maybe getting the chipping technique tweaked to make sure bad habits aren't resurfacing and then its off to work on the swing.

Total number of balls lost in 2010 = 22

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Pyrford Pain

My long suffering golf partner Hywel Lloyd and I were invited to Pyrford ( in Surrey yesterday. The guy we were playing with, Paul Stewart, was an old friend and work colleague. However we hadn't spoken for about fifteen years until last year when Facebook and the Golf Monthly forum provided a chance encounter.

I have to say that I approached the day with trepidation given the changes in my swing that Paul Harrison had implemented the previous Monday (it's all there for you!) were still being worked on. A case of too much too soon really. Given that there is water featuring on seventeen of the Peter Alliss designed course it didn't bode well.

I have to say the course did look a picture as I drove in. The first is a dog leg left and measured 370 off the whites we were using. I hit a decent if unspectacular drive and pulled it a touch left to leave a second of about 160 yards. Picking a five iron I was trying to find the green and not leave it short in the hazard. I found my target and after nonchalantly rolling in a fifteen footer for birdie was feeling rather smug. I hooked my tee shot on the second and had a blind chip to the par 3. I hit a great recovery and just failed to make a streaky par.

The third is a dog leg right and only a short 315 yard par 4. I hit a great three wood with a hint of fade around the dogleg (ok the fade was unintentional) to leave a wedge in. Another par and level after three. I dropped a shot at the next courtesy of a fat approach. I then managed to lose a ball in some deep and menacing gorse thanks to a snap hook. I steadied the ship and parred the seventh and eighth before taking on their famous 592 yard ninth.

It curls around a lake so there is water always in play down the right and the approach is across the water. The green slopes from back to front and there is a deep bunker to catch anything underhit that manages to escape a watery grave. I hit a stunning tee shot and a nicely drawn hybrid left only a seven iron in. I thought I'd hit it great but it pitched about a foot short on the bank at the front of the green and rolled back down into the bunker. A dodgy escape left a tricky downhiller from about 30 feet with the sand beckoning anything running past the hole. However a superb lag left a simple tap in.

The tenth is a great par 3 across a lake and so not for the fainthearted. I'm not sure what happened and whether I sub-consciously lost my bottle but another hook sent another ball into a forest of gorse never to be seen again. I won some bouncebackability points with a solid par 4 at the long 457 yard eleventh thanks to a great chip and a single putt. However from there the wheels, the axle, and eventually even the exhaust fell off. As they were doing so though, Hywel who to this point had been having a very mixed time came back to life. The fifteenth is a short par four only measuring 308 yards and he had ripped a drive to leave a little flick with a wedge. Having carved my drive right I had to play blindly over some mounds. I hit my shot and was making my way back towards civilisation and missed him holing out for a spectacular eagle two.

My last three holes were a mess. I hit a ropey three wood at the sixteenth which just about stayed in bounds but my approach found a greenside bunker. Not a problem you would surmise. However as regulars will know I can conjour up disaster with ease. It's a gift really. A thinned bunker shot, through the green into the undergrowth and never found again. At the seventeenth which was only a simple par three of 150 yards I hit a horrible slice way right which found a pond protecting an adjacent hole. The last is a short par five of 485 yards with water down the right to start with and then a large lake running the length of the hole from around two hundred yards out and which cuts into the left hand side of the green. I hit a great drive. Position A. The plan was to hit a little hybrid down towards the hundred yard marker (maybe closer) and then onto the green and two putts for a triumphant par in front of the crowds on the patio. However the hybrid hadn't read the plan. I hit it great. High and drawing. Unfortunately it had started straight and drawn into the hazard. I took a drop and found a greenside bunker. I hit a good recovery and only just missed what would have been a decent bogey (if there is such a thing).

So all in all, a real Heinz of a round with all sorts. Given that the round was free I couldn't really have to many complaints. From a golfing perspective there was plenty to be pleased about in terms of the new swing working and my chipping and putting on very tricky and quick greens was very good. I think a lot of the issues late on were fatigue, poor concentration and poor execution.

On a personal front, it was great to see Paul again and reminisce although I think Hywel felt a bit of a gooseberry and it probably didn't help his game. I'm sorry for that mate. Still he's entertaining some of his university mates soon so I'll experience exactly the same thing. Pyrford is a very good course and is competitively priced. The greens in particular are excellent and it is good value for money.

I'm off online shopping for some new golf balls as supplies are running low.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 22

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Changes Happening

I had a lesson last night with a guy called Paul Harrison. He's one of the top guys at N1 golf and is the Director of Coaching.

He did some remedial work on my game at the start of the year when my regular teaching pro was out through surgery and got me turning much better rather than sliding my hips back and through. The results were starting to come until the snow and wet weather came and the course was shut. Despite my win in the Jubilee Cup I have felt for a few weeks that there was "something" missing.

I've spoken about the lesson I had at Sand Martins (thanks to the wife working there) and how the pro Steve Cox explained that I was getting the club trapped too far on the inside. I mentioned this to Paul and he watched me hit a few. Why is it you are hitting them great when you are loosening up and as soon as the teacher stands there, especially with a camera, it all goes to pot? We had a look at the video and whilst I was still not quite there in terms of getting the club out in front, it was obvious that the biggest problem was a lateral slide of the hips and a dip into impact as I tried to drive towards the target. In essence, the left side was collapsing and all the power generated, starting with a good address and through to a solid coil, was being lost on the way through the ball.

We did a few drills and focused very much on the left leg staying solid through impact and the hips turning up and away through impact as opposed to travelling laterally. All that was happening was the right foot would slide through like Greg Norman's use to (but without his skill to match the club to the ball). Paul wanted me to strike the ball and then turn straight onto the right toe and totally eradicate the slide.

I have to say it was fine while he watched and the after video was actually the best the swing has looked in a long, long time. However once the lesson finished a combination of a hectic day in work, fatigue and memory loss meant I was struggling to bed the change in. Therefore it was with heavy heart and a large amount of trepidation I headed back to Maidenhead Golf Centre tonight. One of the problems was that my tempo got very quick again which is also contributing to the slide. I had my Tour Tempo ( tunes on the Ipod and I started off really well with my wedges and short irons. I was turning and hitting against a much more stable platform. It did take some work once I moved up to 6 and 4 irons and woods off the tee were a step too far but for a first session I was very pleased. When it was good, boy was it good and the solidness gives much better distance without having to lunge and chuck the kitchen sink at it..

It's obviously early doors as they say, and the next step is to take it to the hallowed turf of the Royal Ascot practice ground and get a feel for how it stands up under more realistic conditions. I'll get my excuses in early and say I'm not too hopeful of a good score on Saturday at Pyrford or under the pressure of a monthly medal on Sunday but I can finally see some positivity.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Hyper (and it's not in a good way)

Played yesterday with Hywel and a guy from the Golf Monthly Forum. I have to say the course was a picture being cut and set up for the BMW Qualifier today but it was bloody freezing, especially in the wind. It was a chance for our visitor Phil to play Ascot before coming back for the Golf Monthly Forum day on June 9th. As there was only three of us we decided on a friendly little stableford and set off.

I had hit the ball pretty well in my defeat on Wednesday but had made far too many mistakes including a poor drive off the first and in front of a guest was determined not to repeat the mistake. Cue a good drive a chip on and a solid 4 to start. On the 2nd I hooked my drive and only managed to get it out and leave 178 yards in. I hit a great hybrid and it cleared the left hand bunker but I though at the speed it landed it must be through so you can imagine the grin on my face when I saw it nestled on the green. The birdie putt didn't do the approach justice but a good par. On the 3rd I found that damned bunker on the right again but hit a great 7 iron onto the green and made another par. I'm not sure what they had done with the real Homer but the impostor could play a bit.

Another par at the 4th and a scruffy dropped shot at the 5th following a poor drive into the thick stuff brought me to the 6th. On Wednesday I made great contact but sadly was directionally challenged as it hooked out of bounds to concede the hole with a whimper. Determined not to repeat the mistake I took my trusty four iron and produced a great shot that found the back of the green. I managed to totally mis-read the putt but the par was some redemption. Standing on the 8th and things were still going well. A great 7 iron to about 15 feet had a swagger in my step and that got even bigger when the putt dropped for birdie. Even when I hit my tee shot at 9 into the rough I wasn't unduly fussed. I was Homer Simpson and I was back. I took out my trust hybrid thinking only of the green. I swung and as soon as I hit it I knew it wasn't good. It shot to the right and low. The only thing going to stop it was the greenkeeper's shed. To be fair, it made a hell of a racket as it crashed onto the roof. I've no idea where it finished. I took a penalty drop and fired it over the green. It was inevitable I wouldn't score on the hole but I'd amassed 19 points going out anyway.

As the back nine started I felt rather strange. Very tired and a little light headed. I thought nothing of it and munched on a banana. I didn't play 11 or 12 too well and a three putt on 13 didn't cheer my mood up. I made a decent five net four on 14 and after hooking my drive down the 15th I allowed myself for be talked into going for it. Suffice to say I didn't threaten the green but still walked away with a par. I bogeyed 16 and 17 and made a solid if unspectacular par down the last to finish with 34 points which was good enough to win the bragging rights.

I still didn't feel great but was suitably buoyed for today and was really looking forward to it. I felt progressively more tired and dizzy last night and went to bed feeling unwell. I woke this morning and not right at all. As some of you may know a few years back I was seriously ill (I was about an hour away from my pancreas perforating which is seriously bad news) and spent nearly a month in hospital. As a reminder not to be a silly boy again I got diabetes for my trouble. Doing a quick blood sugar test it was up at 14 (it should have been 6) and despite taking my medication it wasn't dropping. Following a quick call to the out of hours doctor I was told I was having a hyperglycaemic episode. Cue a trip to the SEBDOC and an insulin injection to boost my medication and lower the blood sugar. The bad news is it seems I might now have to switch from controlling my diabetes via medication to daily injections which for a needle phobic is going to take some real mental agility. The really bad news was that I was in no fit state to play golf and so had to make an early morning call to the pro shop and pull out.

I'm gutted. I'm not saying I'd have won or even done well in the drizzle, showers and the wind but I did feel as though my game was coming back. I've not been able to do anything today golf related like practice and my wife has put an embargo on any internet purchases. The good news is I am feeling much better although it seems the club match I was hoping to play in tomorrow has been postponed.

I've a swing lesson booked for Monday evening so there seems little point in working on my long game tomorrow. I'm tempted to wander over to Sand Martins and use their excellent short game area or focus on my putting. My heart says to go out and play but my brain (which I don't often listen to) is saying more rest would be wise.

All in all then not a good day. At least my game is coming back. I beat Hywel (or Pedro the bandit as he's been christened in some quarters) and Phil my guest. My mojo is back. I've vouchers to spend, a cup to collect at presentation night and the lesson on Monday should kick me forward for the rest of the season. Well that's the grand plan. Right I'm off for my medication. "Nurse, the screens if you please"

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Cooked to perfection

Fresh from the news confirming I'd won the Jubilee Cup, with the help of my partner of course, I played my Weatherill Cup (Summer Knockout) last night. I was drawn against Mike Dowling, a chef by trade, nine handicapper and a regular in the club scratch team.

We were pretty lucky with the weather and it was warm, if a little breezy but none of the showers that were forecast. I have to be honest and say that despite winning on Monday I wasn't overly confident and so wasn't hugely surprised to go one down having made a mess of the hole and watching Mike make par anyway. I managed a half at the 2nd so took the 10&8 out of the equation but after losing my tee shot into the environmental area on the 3rd I was two down. I managed to nick a scrappy fourth.

We shared the 5th in par but I hooked my tee shot OB to concede the 6th although Mike made a great two anyway so I didn't feel quite so bad. I got a shot at the 7th and so after hitting the green in regulation and wandering a putt in the near vicinity my opponent conceded as he failed to make par. I think giving a shot must have annoyed him as he hit a great approach on the short par 3 8th after my miserable effort missed short and right. He converted anyway so I wasn't too fussed to lose to a birdie. At the 9th we both found the fairway bunker. Mike hit out well and finished about ten feet short of the green but I hit a great 6 iron, picking it clean to finish about 12 feet from the hole. Mike chipped to within two feet and like a fool I charged the first one past to a similar distance. "Ill give you yours if you give me mine" he said. I looked at mine and his downhiller and was sorely tempted but opted to putt them both out. He made his and I wondered if I'd made a mistake. My nerve held and I was 2 down at the turn.

On the back nine the chef really turned up the heat. A great second into 10 finished stone dead and I could only bogey anyway. I hit the green at the par 3 11th with a 5 iron and thought I was in with a shout when he bunkered his shot. However he proved why he was a single figure golfer with an up and down and I missed my birdie attempt. At the 12th (stroke index 1) I got another shot and after two bad tee shots my scruffy 5 (nett 4) was good enough to reduce the deficit back to two.

At the next I hit a great tee shot (at least it looked good in the air) but sadly it missed the target some 180 yards away to the right. Up stepped our masterchef and hit his trusty seven wood to within a foot for his fourth birdie of the round. We halved the 14th and so moved onto the par 5 15th. We both hit average drives but by the time I missed the green with my nine iron and he was no more than 12 feet away in regulation, the writing was on the wall. I failed to get up and down and his par was enough to close out the game. Working it back, by the time we shook hands he had plundered four birdies and was only 3 over par gross. Given the rocky nature of my game and the standard of the opponent (and his score on the day) I didn't feel too disappointed.

On the plus side I drove the ball much better than of late and it was my iron shots, which have been behaving recently, that were the main cause of my defeat. I seemed to be blocking everything right and didn't feel as though I was turning properly through the shot. I couldn't buy a putt which was a shame as I'd been working hard on that side of the game. I've a nice relaxed friendly arranged for tomorrow and then the monthly stableford (BMW Invitational) on Saturday although the forecast for that isn't great. Then it's back to work on Monday (bad times).

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 14

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A gunslinger rode into town

It's been a mixed weekend golfing wise. I played with my old mucker Hywel on Saturday morning in preparation for the Jubilee Cup (four ball better ball) yesterday. The course was packed first thing Saturday morning and play was very slow. Even so we were having a good laugh and the relaxed mood seemed to help my game as I was swinging and hitting the ball much better on the front nine than I had done of late. However by the time we got to the 10th there was a queue on the tee and play became soul-destroyingly slow. Whatever rhythm I had got was lost and after chatting to Mick Mills, who was loitering with intent, about all thing blog related duly duck hooked my drive. Things didn't improve much after that bar a glorious 5 wood off the tee at the 13th which soared, drew and landed ten feet away. I naturally missed the putt.

I was due to have a lesson on Sunday but the torrential rain put paid to that. Not ideal preparation then for the Jubilee Cup. It is one of the main honours board events at the club and normally fiercely competitive. We were drawn with El Capatino Steve Pierce and the handicap secretary Mick Brown. I love playing with Steve, as he never worries too much about the golf. What it will be it will be. I'd never had the pleasure of Mick's company but knew that on his day he was a good and steady player.

The conditions weren't good and off 3/4 handicaps I was playing off 9 and Hywel off 13. He was quietly confident as he usually takes me on off level at the weekends. Now I'm not sure what he had to eat and drink at his birthday bash on Saturday night, but there was a swagger about him yesterday even before we started. It was just like one of those old westerns where the hero rides into town and you know it's only a matter of time before the bullets start to fly.

We had made a solid if unimpressive start. He got a solid two points on the 1st and I chipped stone dead at the next. However it was on the 3rd that I got the first real inkling today would be special. Hywel hit his drive into one of three bunkers left of the fairway. I found the short grass but missed the green left. He then hit this recovery that cleared the bunker lip with ease and ended up no more than 12 feet way. He did scare both of us by leaving a three footer for par but made it. We both made a mess of the simple 4th. I don't know what it is about a 320 yard hole that is so hard but neither of us can seem to par it on a regular basis, especially in competitions.

Unperturbed he made a par at the 5th and hit a good approach to the back of the par 3 6th but left a long putt. Putting is probably his biggest weakness and the reason his handicap is still 17 but armed with a new Scotty Cameron, he two putted with ease. Finally I had an opportunity to contribute again and made a solid nett par at the 7th. On the short par three, the captain hit a great shot which looked like going in. Jubilee Day is one of those events you really don't want to be getting an ace. Hywel followed and his looked even closer. When I hit mine it looked good in the air and as it rolled on landing I was mentally checking my bar tab balance and whether I had my credit card on me. As it happened Hywel went first and sunk the birdie. Naturally neither Steve nor I could follow. Hywel made a 4 nett 3 for another three points at the 9th and by the turn Steve and Mick were tied with us on 21 points. They had been quietly rattling up the points and I thought it would be a tough old fight on the back half.

Cometh the moment, my partner suddently caught fire again and hit the par 3 11th in a very tough swirling wind after making a comfortable nett par at the preceeding hole. He should have made birdie but par and another 3 points were fine. There is something about him and our 12th hole. He always seems to find a way to make par and today was no exception. His drive was further right than intended but from the rough he found the green. Two easy putts for par.

I thought I'd better remind him that I hadn't forgotten we were supposedly a team and not a one man band. He hit the green at the long par 3 13th and I missed the green right and chipped to about 12 feet facing a downhill left to righter. To be honest he made a hash of his putt and raced it by and wasn't looking confident. My putting has been one of the few bedrocks of my game recently and although firmer than intended my putt was true and made a safe par. Just as well really as Hywel was well wide with his effort.

I was riding the back of Hywel's coat tails and his great play had sparked a confidence in my game that had been lacking for months. I was short of the 14th in two and had 92 yards to the front into the wind. I wanted to club up so the ball landed and took the slope to the flag so chose a 9 iron. I didn't hit it great but it ended up about 10 feet away. Hywel had already secured the nett par. There are some putts that you can stand over and you just know they are going in. This was one such putt and I allowed myself a bit of a fist pump (yes I know it looks lame) as the ball dropped.

Our 15th was playing downwind. There is a ditch around the 270 yard mark and only a sliver of fairway maybe 15 feet wide. My partner crunches one but it is a little right and both he and I fear it has found the hazard. Needing to step up I hit my best drive of the day slap bang in the middle. When we get up there, a ball is lying well over the ditch and on the fairway. I was tempted to get my 3 wood out and have a go but didn't want to take a risk until we knew it was Hywel's ball. It was. My 3 wood effort was poor but he just stood up and smacked a 5 iron onto the green. I pitched on. Faced with a long downhiller I wanted to make my 5 and give him a free run at the eagle. We knew by this stage we were going well and so were scrapping over every point. I wanted to get close but there was such a smug grin on my face and more than a little finger pointing at the hole as I drained it.

I made a solid nett par at the 16th but Hywel had the luck his brilliance all day deserved at the 17th. He hit a poor tee shot (crap was the word I used) and he was in the rough short and right. In all honesty he totally mishit the chip but it found its way onto the green. He then had the temerity to hole the putt for another 3 points. I finished the scoring with a nett par at the last. Once the sums had been done we'd got 44 points (21 out and 23 back) and (subject to ratification) had only gone and won!

To say there was some banter when Steve told the Ascot faithful how we'd got on would be putting it mildly. Even though he's only been at the club a while Hywel is fitting in just fine and was giving it back with the best. Like the gun slinging hero, I left him in the bar, enjoying a well earned drink and explaining how the West was won.

It was a shame when I recounted our moment in the sun on the Golf Monthly forum that a lot of the regular posters took it as an opportunity to question his handicap and suggest that he's a bandit or falsely protecting it. Total rubbish. Steve, and in particular Mick Brown who does such a diligent job sorting out all the handicapping issues, have seen that he's in all the competitions but can't translate friendly performances into a handicap cutting one. His time will come. Today really was his day and he was on fire.

So where do I go from here? Does this mean I've achieved one of the fundamental aims of the odyssey by winning a gold letter event? Part of me says yes but the realist understands that without Hywel's heroics it would have been mid-table anonymity yesterday. My golf is showing signs of improving but it'll have to get better PDQ as I'm playing Mike Dowling in my Summer knockout tomorrow. He's a very handy 9 so I'm very much the underdog. I just hope some of Fulham's European doggedness rubs off. I'll have a day of playing and practicing on Thursday. Hywel and I are entertaining a guy off the GM forum on Friday morning before the battle of getting my handicap cut is rejoined on Saturday in the monthly stableford (BMW qualifier).

If you see a horse in the car park sombrero on its back, and the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly somewhere in the distance chances are Hywel's back in Dodge City and I'll be proudly riding alongside.

Total number of lost balls in 2010 = 12

Where did the time go?

Apologies for the dearth of updates but it's been a funny old time. Someone has swapped my beloved Fulham for a team of footballers. Never in all my years supporting and watching them, especially when they were about to go out of the Football League did I ever think they'd get to a European Final. I certainly don't think it'll happen again in my lifetime and for my money Roy Hodgson should be Manager of the Year, judge on Britain's got Talent and Prime Minister. He's got the midas touch.

Elsewhere I can't believe the first quarter of the year has gone already. With regards Homer's odyssey and the goals I set in my very first post (what do you mean you can't remember?) then as many of my old teachers and ex-bosses throughout the years have said "must try harder". My handicap has gone the wrong way. DOH! My game is nowhere near where I envisaged it would be by the start of the busiest part of the season and I haven't threatened the winners circle since my 2nd place in January.

I had a lesson booked for last Sunday which got cancelled thanks to the inevitable Bank Holiday weekend downpour which I was hoping was going to be the missing piece of the jigsaw. On the plus side, the short game is starting to come together although bunkers suddenly seem mysterious places to me at the moment and getting a ball out of them a lost art. My putting is pretty good at the moment and the golfing mojo is rising slowly like the temperature.

The blog is getting some good comments which is nice. In particular Mick Mills at the club has been very kind and is trying to pass the word around. Please make a note of the website pass it on. It would be great to see as many Ascot members as possible following me. Now the season has really started I want to involve as many of them in my journey as I can.

I've finished my self imposed sabbatical. I never knew a week was so long but I managed it and didn't touch a club once in that time. Not even a sneaky putt on the carpet at home. I've been back down the range since my lesson at Sand Martins and had good and bad sessions. The good were very good and I thought I'd finally turned a corner only to find a dirty great big brick wall the following night when I couldn't repeat the swing or replicate any of the feelings. Got is a stupid game and I'm an idiot.

So what does the second part of the year hold. A drier course will help a powderpuff hitter like me (good times and historically I usually get most of my good finishes between May and August (also good times). However my swing hasn't been this erratic (bad times) for three or four years now. A look at my stats for the first quarter I think tell their own sad story.

Fairways Hit: 38%

Greens In Reg: 19%

Putts Per Round: 33.50

Sand Saves: 14%

Birdie Conversion: 9%

Par Scrambles: 15%

Produced by Scoresaver 2.

I'll keep battling on. I can feel it getting there and it's like there is just one piece of the puzzle missing. And on that positive note I'm off to boldly go where Homer has never been before!