The One That Got Away
By Phil Whitfield
The ritual: Mum woke me at 7, I signed in at Allerton Golf Club at 7. 45. Back by 10. 30. Sandwiches in the car on Otterspool Prom with Val. Arrived at the Daily Post at 4 for the swing shift. Abed by 1. Up at 7…
If it hadn’t been for bumping into Peter O’Sullivan on Victoria Street, I’d probably have spent my life that way.
Mr O’Sullivan brandished a birth certificate in my face. The babe was named Paula St. John Lawrence Lawler Byrne Strong Yeats Stevenson Callaghan Hunt Milne Smith Thompson Shankly Bennett Paisley O’Sullivan.
I mentioned it to John Humphrys in the Press Club off Bold Street who mentioned it to Clive Freeman (standing in for Arthur Redford as the Daily Mail’s Liverpool resident hack) who mentioned it to Ken Donlan, the Daily Mail’s news editor in Manchester who mentioned it to Charlie Madden, the picture editor, who happened to be on the phone to Jack Crossley the news editor in London, who told Charlie Wilson (later husband of Anne Robinson, formerly of this parish), who told Larry Lamb, on the Mail’s back bench.
Soon after sun-up Mum woke me Daily Mail in hand. Huge front page scoop, KD sent me £25 (three times my DP weekly wage) and told me to get my keester to Deansgate. Date and time were agreed.
Mum woke me as usual. I turned up on the Allerton first tee. The wind tore the ball out of sight. I put another one down, sliced it right and it went straight ahead. Par 4.
If memory serves it was the second hole, or maybe the third (it was 54 years ago) that dog-legged around the walled garden. Bearing the wind in mind, I hit what I wanted to be a draw and fade with a 3-wood. The ball headed somewhere into the clouds, Lord knows where. A slice is unforgivable.
I trudged up the fairway, shoes squelching in the mud. No sign of my ball. Or any living thing, bar me, stupid enough to be out in a Mersey squall.
I turned left at the corner of the walled garden. The wind was sharp enough to cut my teeth, No sign of my ball. Disconsolate, I carried on directly towards the Par 4 fifth.
En route I walked head down across the green ahead, flag being torn this way and that by the gale.
To this day I’ve no idea what prompted me to lift the pin.
And I know you won’t believe me…but there was my ball. A freak hole-in-one and not a soul in sight to witness the only time the golfing gods smiled down on this wretched wacker-hacker.
I didn’t have the heart to finish the round. I headed home for one of Mum’s fry-ups; ironed a shirt; pressed me kecks, shone me shoes and drove to Manchester.
KD, Bill Dixon, Malcolm Long and Tony Hoare were in The Grapes on their third pint and second bowl of chilli.
‘Thought you’d like another tale.’
‘Go on, then…’
‘Headline: The One That Got Away.’
‘Nice yarn. Start on Monday.’
The others? Humphrys you know about; Freeman joined his brother in Germany, both heroes of the Berlin Wall coming down; one of Redford’s successors was school chum Steve Oldfield; KD had a stroke, but served Murdoch to the bitter end; Charlie Madden died with his clogs on; Jack Crossley was the finest news editor Fleet Street ever produced, though his sidekick Charlie Wilson has something to say about that. They’d turn up as a twosome to run mags and papers all over the globe.
Larry Lamb gave birth to The S*n.
Peter O’Sullivan? His epitaph is the phalanx of fathers who copy-catted him, naming their kids after their footy heroes.
Mine? I walk the Allerton links many a day with a memory that’s worthy of the new shrine to golf that’s about to arise where I holed in one:
I’m indebted to Johnny Cohen, scion of the Liverpool Jewish community and sometime visitor to the Athenaeum – always our steadfast leader at Mosspits Lane and Quarry Bank – for tipping me off that Liverpool City Council was likely to approve a new Allerton golf course (which they did on Tuesday). The Manor House – described as dilapidated and at risk – is to be extended up and across and a 31-bed boutique hotel, spa and conference facility is on the cards.
The project includes reconfiguring Allerton Manor’s existing 18 and 9-hole courses to championship standard, with a new driving range and putting area; a partially submerged pavilion/club house with shop and changing facilities; indoor teaching facilities, and a new adventure golf course.
A million dreamers will address the ball on the tee of the dog leg par 3, unaware that a duffer once managed the seemingly impossible.
A cabbie picked me up in Woolton Village the other day.
‘How much to Picton Clock?’
‘About seven nicker on the meter.’
‘Bit steep for an OAP…’
‘You should drive yerself.’
‘Drive, you say?’
‘Let me tell you a story about me driving …’