The day I made my first parOctober 6, 2017 The Scoop
Harriet Shephard was understandably nervous on her first golf press trip - but it all turned out alright in the end
It’s hard to imagine how a trip to Sicily could be anything but brilliant, isn’t it?
With a beautiful coastline, interesting culture, not to mention incredible food, surely anyone would be excited to spend five days on this idyllic Mediterranean island.
To most of you, the prospect of playing golf at four of the island’s best resorts will also sound incredible.
However, as someone who has only been playing golf for a year, I was incredibly nervous about my press trip.
When you still haven’t actually played a full 18 holes – at this stage of my golfing life nine is really quite enough – the prospect of attempting your first full round with 10 members of the golf media industry is rather daunting.
You find yourself assuming they would all have been playing since they were children, off single figures, and totally obsessed with a game I am still trying to figure out on many levels.
“I will be the only girl! What will we talk about? I don’t like football!”
My friends, you’ll be surprised to hear, were hardly sympathetic: “You’re just not allowed to complain about a holiday to Sicily. That’s just not a thing.”
So it was that I found myself leaving Gatwick with a group of golfers who had clearly all done this many times before.
Our first stop was the very fancy Verdura Resort, where it physically hurt to ignore the private beach, abandon my bikini and flip flops, and instead get changed into a skort and golf shoes.
Concentrate, Harriet, you’re here to play golf.
On the plus side, getting the first bit of golf over with quickly meant that I had less time to work myself up into a panic. Not that I was totally chilled out as I made my first attempt at hitting a ball. The fear was still very real.
But surprisingly, my first tee shot wasn’t a total disaster.
I’ve been told before that. The first tee is always the hardest, they say. So I was naively hopeful that the rest would also be fine.
But I soon discovered that the first shot isn’t the most difficult bit, that is keeping focussed and concentrating on your game for more than four hours.
After nine holes I presumed we must have miscounted. “Oh, that was actually just nine?”
It felt like it would never end.
But finally, I completed 18 holes.
I was relieved it was over – and it is important to stress that it was not because I don’t enjoy playing golf, it can just be very intimidating to us beginners.
Now all I could think about was having to go through that ordeal every day for the next three days.
But I didn’t have to be worried that anyone would be unkind about my lack of golfing ability. Everyone was keen to offer advice – even if having so many well-meaning suggestions was as confusing as it was helpful.
On day two I admitted defeat and went to the pool after nine holes, but day three held a major break through…
After already losing lots of balls to the fields of intimidating prickly pears, I began my next hole without any great hopes of success.
As a par 4, I went with my usual plan of just trying to hit the ball as far as I could with my driver, which was generally only successful about 10 per cent of the time.
But this time it went surprisingly well, and my next shot actually went on the green. It was all very confusing – there wasn’t even a fanfare. After rolling my putt close to the hole, I stood over my tap-in shaking like a leaf.
It went in. My first ever par. Suddenly all the nerves I had felt from the previous days disappeared.
It took a while to sink in.
I had actually made par. For the first time. Just like a real golfers do!
I was utterly baffled by how I had managed it. Was it was just a fluke? A remarkable stroke of good luck? But it felt brilliant.
With my new-found confidence, I made another two pars the next day. Hey, I was as surprised as the rest of my long-suffering fourball.
Obviously my golf was still terrible in general, but this was much easier to ignore when I knew I had completed at least done three holes in a relatively respectful fashion.
So as much as I dreaded it, my four days of non-stop golfing was completely worth it and there wasn’t really anything to worry about after all.
And I can’t think of a better setting for my first pars than Sicily.