Madeleine Winnett: Finally back on the course
My, don’t the years fly past quickly. I can’t believe it’s time to start jingling those bells again when I only just seem to have got rid of the final vestiges of last year’s tinsel. In the event of a nuclear war, cockroaches won’t be the only things to survive. Bits of tinsel will also emerge from every crevice
This is the time when you have to start ransacking the brain thinking about what to buy your nearest and dearest but, for me, Christmas came very early this year when I could finally start playing golf again after my 18-month injury enforced lay off. And boy have I made the most of it!
Mentally, I had assumed that this would be the season where I would tentatively start to work my way back in, and then next year I would be ready to compete properly again. But it didn’t turn out that way. I hit the ground running with a very expensive hole-in-one en route to winning the County Spring Foursomes with my partner, Tina, and haven’t looked back since.
Initially, I had decided that I wouldn’t be able to win anything off my handicap this year, because I didn’t think I would be able to play to it for ages, so secretly aspired to go up to something like 7. I thought, with a glorious two-shot buffer zone in Category 2, trying to knock it round in single figures would be a fun target, and from there I would enjoy coming down again.
However, it didn’t work out that way. Whilst staying firmly in Category 1 (barring the one week where I crept up to 5.5) this has turned out to be one of my most successful years ever, with three medal spoons, four silver trophies and an extremely floral umbrella to name amongst my spoils. But even more importantly than that, I have now fallen in love with the game all over again.
Whilst I was incapacitated, I hadn’t really had time to miss playing because I had been so busy researching and writing Alison Nicholas’ book, but when I finally started hitting balls again, it all came rushing back. I have realised that I love hitting balls (when it’s going well!) even more than I love playing.
A number of years ago, I adopted my local cricket ground as my own private practice ground. It is in delightful surroundings, and as I am the only golfer to use it, the turf is always immaculate. I can also choose to hit from wherever I like and in whatever direction. Obviously the ground staff would be slightly less amenable if I teed it up in the middle of the wicket but as I always replace my divots they seem very happy to let me get on with it.
I like being able to see the dispersion of balls at the end of my stint, rather than them being lost in a collection of range balls, and I like being able to pick them up myself and hit them back to where I started. I like speaking to all the dogs who are
going for walkies there and, apart from the cricketers actually daring to have a match at weekends on my practice ground, it is a wonderfully peaceful and beautiful place.
It would be good to be able to say that I have worked hard at my game this year but it hasn’t felt like work at all. It has just been such a pleasure to be able to hit balls again, I have enjoyed every minute of it. Ball striking has always been the strength of my game and, initially, my objective was to be able to hit the ball as well as I did before my accident.
But then I read about the trials and tribulations of Jonny Wilkinson coming back from injury so many times, and his mantra wasn’t to come back as good as before but to be better than before.
I thought that was a mighty fine objective so I adopted it myself and, much to my surprise, actually seem to have succeeded. Now I need to apply it to all the other areas of my game that are still sadly lacking one at a time, and then I will be a very happy bunny indeed.
Santa also came early with my set of Mizuno irons which I have absolutely loved, and a TaylorMade M2 driver. I didn’t think anything could separate me from my old R11 driver because, despite several people telling me there were much better drivers out there now, I never found I could hit any of them further than old faithful. But now I can!
I even got to pull on my old county jumper again in October to help Staffordshire win the annual Mary Turner Bowl against Warwickshire and Worcestershire.
Nothing more could vindicate that I had come full circle since my surgery than that.
So, what do I want from Father Christmas this year? I have absolutely no idea. I don’t even harbour a thought to wish members of CONGU a Silent Night or a Bleak Midwinter. For once, your belligerent, cantankerous, obstreperous columnist is completely and utterly happy with life and with golf. I bet you didn’t see that one coming!
Happy Christmas readers and make the long side of the wish bone pull your way.