Dial-A-Smile’s guile just vile for skipper Vinny

Sullen barman’s sharp practice leaves Mulligan Medal captain lost for words

The only thing former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer and Soiled and Ancient skipper Vinny Fitzpatrick had in common on the golf course was their year of birth, 1957. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

The only thing former Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer and Soiled and Ancient skipper Vinny Fitzpatrick had in common on the golf course was their year of birth, 1957. Photograph: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Wed, Feb 19, 2014, 06:00

A number of great golfers were born in 1957, swashbuckling Seve, nasty Nick Faldo, nice guy Nick Price, boring Bernhard Langer and playful Payne Stewart.

Vinny Fitzpatrick was, as he freely admitted, a wojious golfer, a short, jabby, hitter, with a whip-like hook which appeared like a devil on his left shoulder – always the left – with dreadful consequences.

His bunker play was so slapdash whenever his ball plopped into sand, Vinny fished it out with a snort and moved on, while his play on the greens, especially over short putts, was at times painful.

But Vinny loved the noble game with a passion matched only by his unquenchable thirst for creamy pints.

And when asked by Old Man Foley to be non-playing captain of the Soiled And Ancient’s golf society team for the bi-annual match with the Foxfield Foozlers for the Mulligan Medal, Vinny felt he’d died and gone to heaven.

Mainstay Vinny’s Soiled And Ancient’s record was almost as wretched as dear old Alf Padgham in the Ryder Cup – played seven, lost seven – apart from 1998 when he famously secured a Mulligan-winning half in St Anne’s after his opponent broke an ankle jumping for joy upon holing a long putt.

The 2014 edition of the Mulligan Medal was to be played over two days, and one night, at Roganstown in midsummer.

Deepest Fingal
It was less than a dozen miles to deepest Fingal from Clontarf but it might as well have been a five-day camel ride into the Sahara such was the buzz among the lads – even in mid-February.

As non-playing captain – strictly non-playing warned, Old Man Foley – Vinny got to pick two wild cards for the eight-strong team, and to arrange the pairings for the fourballs on day one and scotch foursomes on day two.

There were four outings to be played before the team was selected and Vinny was determined to follow the lead of fellow Dub Paul McGinley and be hands-on at the tiller.

It explained Vinny’s presence on a towering sand dune at the seaside links of Laytown and Bettystown on a crisp, but thankfully dry, Tuesday morning.

He had considered playing, having got two shots back on huis handicap, to 26, but felt his game was still rusty from the winter hibernation and it was s best not to put his partners in the spotlight. ‘They might crack under the pressure,’ he thought.

Instead, he took to prowling the links, trying to be invisible, not easy for a man of his immense girth wearing a canary yellow gansey.

The forenoon was pitch-perfect and it finally felt as if winter’s icy grip had been loosened.The Irish Sea was as calm as a mill pond and Vinny could see north past Clogher Head towards the Cooleys, and south to Red Island in Skerries and Lambay.

As a nipper, he had been brought to Laytown every summer by his old man, Finbarr, for the race meeting on the beach. From memory, the sun always shone, his old man cursed every bet he struck, but always kept a tanner in reserve so he could buy Vinny an ice-cream for the train home.

His old man was full of stories about Laytown, like the one about St Patrick blessing his first convert to Christianity in the water of the River Nanny, where it met the Irish Sea.

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