Dial-A-Smile gives Vinny something to think about


When the final putt was holed, the cards signed, and the clubs flung in the rear of Fran’s shiny new Passat, Vinny Fitzpatrick took a wistful glance back across the fine links of Laytown Bettystown, and puffed out his jowls in relief.

“Thank God, that torment is over for another year,” he said to himself.The anguish of the previous four and a half hours was reflected in his score of 111, a Nelson in cricket, which prompted a wry smile on Vinny’s lugubrious features as even Lord Horatio himself, with his one arm, one eye and one lump of sugar in his tea, would probably have fared better.

Vinny had never mastered the format of strokeplay golf and was grateful that the dishonourable company of the Soiled and Ancient, otherwise known as Foley’s Golf Society, only insisted on one such outing per year.

A motion to remove the strokeplay system, which Vinny supported, had been narrowly defeated at the recent agm where Charlie St John Vernon, using his casting vote as incoming captain, insisted the ‘Quo Vadis’ should remain in place – Charlie had a masterful way with malapropisms.

“Keeping a record of every shot you play is the truest form of the noble art. The scorecard is the ultimate arbiter and it never lies,” intoned Charlie with an earnestness that belied his society handicap of 31. Over a reviving post-round fry-up the lads reflected on the difficulties imposed on the hacker when every shot counted.

More aggrieved

Fran had reason to feel more aggrieved than most as he was motoring along smoothly until he plugged his approach on the 17th into a bunker and, after foregoing the option to take a penalty drop, had indulged in a spot of earth-moving and sand-blasting that turned the air blue and left his card in tatters.

“If we were playing the Stableford format, I could have picked up my ball after a few whacks, kept my dignity and my chances of a prize intact. Instead, I had to hole a nasty three-footer for a nine. It’s a joke,” he thundered.

Vinny had understood his friend’s frustration, particularly as he’d taken the long walk back to the tee on the 11th to reload after losing one of his bright yellow Pinnacles.

It had added 350 yards to his day’s hike and prompted giggles from a threeball on a neighbouring fairway.

“Keep her lit Vinny, don’t hold us up now,” mocked Dial-A-Smile, the supercilious head barman from Foley’s who moved far quicker between shots than he ever did between the pumps.

Brennie, who had got up and down from the whins on the last to break 100, wondered if ball spotters might speed things up. “Failing that, perhaps we should be allowed a number of Mulligans, like the ones Bill Clinton was famous for.”

Passion for golf

That the former US president was renowned for his “Billigans” as much as for anything he did during office, reminded Vinny of the passion so many occupants of the White House had for golf. He’d read somewhere that 15 of the last 18 US Presidents all played the game, to various degrees of ability. Even Barack Obama was in on the act, enjoying a round with Tiger Woods, no less. According to high-profile coach Butch Harmon, Obama had played golf like it should be played and actually counted all his shots.

“Big deal,” thought Vinny.That Obama’s candour should be highlighted as a virtue was nonsense, according to Vinny, who was a steadfast upholder of the sport’s sense of decency and honour.

For him, any man, or woman for that matter, who went down a different path, had no place in the game.Whenever Vinny sliced over a hillock into a corner of the links last visited by Neanderthal man, as he regularly did, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by improving a lie just because no one else was about, or by slipping a new ball out of a pocket. For Vinny, the sacredness of the game’s virtues mattered more than turning an eight into a six, or a 24-point round into a 26-pointer.

As he dipped the last of his chips into the remains of a runny fried egg, Vinny reminded his pals it was high time for a throat-clearing reviver or two in Foley’s prior to the prize-giving. As Fran settled the bill Vinny sauntered into the car park. It was a glorious sunny February afternoon, with a welcome hint of spring in the air. Fran’s Volkswagen was parked close by the 18th green and Vinny ambled over to the home hole for a gander at his society colleagues.

Pecked forlornly

Vinny could see two of the wrecking crew in the scrub to the left, heads down like chickens as they pecked forlornly for an errant ball. On the near side of the green, where a ball had come to rest in a divot, was the third member of the party, Dial-A-Smile. Vinny was about to ask the surly barman how his round was going when he saw him casually flip his ball out of the divot mark with a wedge.

The ball was moved no more than six inches but Dial-A-Smile had gone far further than that.Vinny was gobsmacked. His mouth opened and closed like a guppy. He looked across at the other lads, who had no idea what had occurred, and then watched in silence as Dial-A-Smile executed a deft pitch and run to within two feet of the pin. Vinny’s mind was all a jumble as Dial-A-Smile casually asked “any joy there, lads?” as he approached his playing partners in the undergrowth.

A line had been crossed and a part of Vinny was tempted to snatch an iron from Dial-A-Smile’s bag and shove it where the sun didn’t shine. Only, who would believe him? It would be his word against Dial-A-Smile’s. He had no witnesses to stand over any claim and he also knew that to be labelled a cheat in golf was the worst stigma imaginable.

The haughty barman was sure to deny any wrongdoing vehemently.As Dial-A-Smile tapped in his tiddler and received the congratulations of his partners, Vinny tucked his card of conscience into his back pocket. It would, he felt, be played another day.

Vinny’s Bismarck

2ptsLay Scotland to beat Ireland in Six Nations (6/4, Boylesports, liability 3pts)

Bets of the week

1pteach-way Matt Kuchar in WGC Accenture Matchplay (35/1, Paddy Power)

3ptsGalatasaray to beat Schalke in Champions League (5/4, general)

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