Vinny caught cold by divine providence

Our hero isn’t the first to succumb to temptation and he won’t be the last

Rory McIlroy:  Vinny’s shout of encouragement for the bould Rors seemed a tad half-hearted. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Rory McIlroy: Vinny’s shout of encouragement for the bould Rors seemed a tad half-hearted. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh


Foley’s pub had rarely seen a Sunday like it, or rather Monday.

For it was well past midnight and there wasn’t a child washed in the house, nor would there, not after Old Man Foley negotiated an 11th hour deal with the local cop shop for an impromptu lock-in.

Approval by Sergeant “Rockfist” O’Reilly, a former slugger, to allow the Old Man’s “valued customers” watch the end of the US PGA Championships came with one condition – access for a couple of his golf-daft lads knocking off at midnight.

“Sure, we’ll have sambos and pints on the house, when they arrive,” chuckled the Old Man, who knew he was on to a good thing. “Mind you, they’ll have to stand.”

Foley’s was jammers but Vinny Fitzpatrick’s crew were firmly ensconced, having arrived in good time for McIlroy’s appointed tee-off.

That Rors was delayed for 90 minutes didn’t cause any hardship to the lads. If nothing else, it allowed for a proper lubricating warm-up.

All six were up to their gills in stout as they followed the final dramatic stages of the year’s final Major, with their hearts, for they loved the curly-haired tyro, and their wallets.

As Brennie, who had a nifty 50 on McIlroy at 6 to 1, roared aloud after a birdie putt dropped at the 13th to tie the lead, Vinny’s shout of encouragement seemed a tad half-hearted.

In truth, Vinny was feeling lower than a serpent’s belly.

Guilt, not Guinness, was flowing through his veins, and he made a mental note to see Fr Leo Lavelle in confession the next day even though it had been many years since he’d last said, “Bless me, Father for I have sinned . . .”

The root of Vinny’s angst began on Thursday lunchtime as the 31 bus nudged into the terminus at Howth Summit, a little before noon.

He had one more run into town to do before his shift was over and he could turn his head to the golf in Valhalla. He always liked the American golf, especially the Majors, as it was ideal for drinking time with the lads.

As was his custom, he had a quick mooch around the bus, lest someone left behind anything. Umbrellas were a popular item, ahead of mobile phones and wallets.

On the floor, at the rear of the top deck, a cluster of blue paper caught Vinny’s eye. He thought it was a Silvermints wrapper but quickly twigged it was something more valuable – a €20 note.

On closer inspection, there were three curled up twenties.

It wasn’t the first time Vinny had found a sum of money on the bus and his instinct, and inclination, was to report the find, and hand it in to the lost property office.

Vinny knew of the odd rogue driver who’d pocket the sum without a pang of conscience but that wasn’t his way. After all, some poor unfortunate was now sixty knicker out of pocket – a not inconsiderable amount.

As he handled the cash in his fleshy fingers, Vinny arrived at a decision which could come back to haunt him later and which he would find hard to explain behind the darkened doors of St Gabriel’s, even to Leo Lavelle.

The find, he reasoned, was providence. Someone somewhere wanted to have the money, to take good care of it. He was a sucker who rarely got an even break. Well, now he had.

As he tootled down Carrickbrack Road, past the golf club he rarely visited since becoming a member, Vinny felt he was on a mission – to make money out of the outcome of the US PGA.

He would donate his winnings to the Dollymount Sea Scouts, who were doing a marathon relay swim across Dublin Bay to raise a few bob for a couple of Kayaks.

Convincing himself he held the high moral ground, Vinny had bounded into Boru Betting, and studied the Valhalla form, his fingers and toe all a tingle, as they always where when he was punting.

Reap the whirlwind After a bit, he scribbled down three head-to-head match bets, at €20 each, at odds of 7

to 4, 5 to 2 and 6 to 4 on his PGA selections. Should they come up, there would be €115 profit for the scouts.

As for the €60 stake money, Vinny would cross that bridge in due course. Little did he suspect, but the seeds of sin he’d sowed would reap a terrible fruit.

The first painful payback came late on Friday. Vinny was following the late night action on Sky Sports when pictures flashed up showing Jason Dufner, the defending champion, shaking hands with his partners and leaving the course.

Sitting in his den, a bowl of cheese puffs to hand, Vinny bolted upright. “What the hell?” he spluttered.

He’d backed YE Yang to finish ahead of Dufner and at the last score check was confident he’d collect as Yang was two-under par to Dufner’s eight over.

As Boru Betting only paid out on match bets where both golfers completed the course, Vinny now needed his other two selections, Bernd Wiesberger and Patrick Reed to deliver.

The following night, everything looked rosy in Vinny’s den. Deep into the second round of the PGA, Wiesberger was a country mile ahead of Boo Weekley as was Patrick Reed in front of Angel Cabrera.

“We’re quids in,” he grinned, quite satisfied.

And then, against the odds, the wrath of the almighty’s retribution splintered down on the potato-shaped head of the 56-year-old.

First, Cabrera withdrew, to be followed moments later by Weekley, both citing injury. Vinny was gobsmacked.

A scan of the updated PGA scores on his laptop, showed that Cabrera was 16 behind Reed, while Weekley was 13 shots back of Wiesberger. This was like Devon Loch all over again, only worse, for Vinny.

“Good God, this can’t be happening?” he said aloud.

For the rest of the weekend, Vinny followed the golf in a miasma of remorse.

He thought that lorrying the jar into him on Sunday might hide the shame in his soul but nothing could, not even the sight of McIlroy burning off his rivals.

As Vinny waddled home a little after two bells, he took a detour into St Gabriel’s, found the letter box by the sacristy door and thrust a Boru Betting slip through.

Inside, the slip, which was bounded by an elastic band, were three €20 notes.

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