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I've always wanted to play golf

By Richard Bickers 1999

I've always wanted to play golf. At least as far back as I can remember, that is. Everybody I knew, who was old enough, played golf. My Dad, my Mum, my big brother, my aunts and uncles, all their friends, everybody down our road played golf. Everybody. Golf was just something you did. You were born, you grew up, you played golf and that was that. There was one exception mind you; old Mr. Withers. He seemed nice enough but he kept himself to himself and didn't go out much. Everyone said he was odd. They tried to be nice about it but you could tell they didn't like him. The fact was; he didn't play golf.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, an age of time went by and I grew up. At least I felt pretty grown up. The big news was that I was now old enough to have my own set of clubs. Not just borrow my brother's or use those silly plastic pretend ones like I'd being doing before but actually having my own set. Wow! Just imagine. Me, big enough to have my own clubs and play real golf on a real course. Just like all the other grown-ups.

It was then my Dad explained a few of the finer points to me. The first thing was that a set of clubs cost a fortune. That was a bit of a shock but on top of that you only get to order one set and you have to look after them for the rest of your life. Oh, and one more thing; they take nine months to arrive! Blimey, I hadn't realised it was as complicated as that. No wonder everybody took their golf so seriously. Still, all the other grown-ups had done it before me and the time was right for me to join the ranks of the golfing community.

I begged for and borrowed the money I needed, filled out the application form and posted it off. Quite simple really. All I had to do then was wait.

Nine months rolled by and finally the big day arrived. A little van stopped outside our house and the driver emerged with a large brown paper parcel. I could hardly wait. I signed for the parcel, took it into the lounge and with everyone gathered around I carefully unwrapped the layers of paper.

Everyone looked on. Bit by bit I got closer to the middle until, after some effort, I was able to reach in and touch one of the clubs. Fantastic! With a gentle pull out it came followed by the others forming a neat little pile on the floor. I was thrilled. I'd made it! My own set of clubs just waiting to be enjoyed. My new life as a grown-up had begun.

And then I noticed they were bent. Not all that badly really but they certainly weren't straight and I was sure that wasn't right. I asked the people around me but they weren't sure either. I felt the blood drain from my cheeks. I'd heard about the sad people with bent clubs although I didn't know any. They couldn't play properly and had to do the best they could on the course - a bit of a joke really - struggling round whacking the ball in all directions. Normal people would politely pass them by and then mumble that they probably shouldn't be playing on a 'normal' course - rather a smaller one more suited to their abilities. Surely that wasn't me - the chances were so small. No… not me.

I looked again at the clubs. They really were bent. I didn't need an expert to tell me - I could see it. I was going to be one of the sad people with a life of inability and embarrassment ahead of me. In the space of ten seconds all my hopes, my dreams, my expectations… my very life… all smashed to pieces. It was over - the rest of my life had just blanked out.

Everyone around was sympathetic. They tried to be helpful; 'They still look nice' was a common theme. What was the point of that? I wanted to play Golf with them not look at them. I just wanted to be normal. Why me? That's what I wanted to know. It was so unfair.

I cried all night and all the following day. I cried all week. It still didn't seem possible - it was so unlikely and yet it had happened to me. It wasn't fair, it was a nightmare and by now I knew I wasn't going to wake up. I tried to go out for a bit of fresh air but all I could see were normal people out and about with their normal clubs playing normal golf. Everyone but me. It just wasn't fair.

We got the expert in - the club consultant. He was pleased as punch. He proudly announced that they were definitely bent and that he could tell because he was experienced in these matters. He could see I was upset and consoled me by recalling that he'd heard of someone with bent clubs actually completing a round of golf once! It wouldn't be so bad… I could still play golf… I'd just be no good at it. And away he went. Back to his straight clubs and the defense of his course record.

My Mum had never seen me so upset and didn't know what to do. Not at first, anyway. However, she did bump into someone who knew of a similar tale and through that link discovered the Sarah Duffin golfer's support centre. It was here that I began to learn how to get the most out of my clubs. I learned that times had changed and that bent clubs weren't such a handicap after all. Whereas once, such golfers would have been outcast and shunned by the masses they were now more accepted as part of the golfing community. I learned that it was entirely possible to play a good round of golf with clubs like mine and that although they were never going to win me any championships that really didn't matter so much any more. What really counted was that I could go out there, do my best and have some fun. It wasn't going to be normal but then it wasn't going to be exactly abnormal either.

I went through a period of change. I used to think that being able to compete in championships was important but, in fact, it was the fun of playing that really counted. If, at the end of the day, I came off the course happy then that was what life was really all about. Armed with good, practical advice from organisations such as the Sarah Duffin centre I felt much more confident of my future and how I could get the most out of it. A feeling of normality began to return.

So how are things now? - You might be wondering, two years on. Well, I do play golf and I do play on the normal courses. I'm learning how to get the best out of my clubs and, quite frankly, in many ways they don't seem so different to normal ones. I don't play as well as my counterparts but I'm OK. Sometimes I even think I'm having a better time than them - they do seem to take it all so seriously.

My clubs have become a part of me now. I've spent two years learning how to get the best out of them and I love them dearly. If someone came to me and offered to swap them with their sparkly new, straight ones my reaction would be; "Straight clubs? Where's the fun in that?!".