Rough justice as Vinny’s finest hour turns to nought

Dial-A-Smile’s dramatic late intervention changes the course of what had seemed a perfect day

As Vinny Fitzpatrick waited to tee off on the last hole, he imagined he was at Royal Portrush, poised to claim Open glory, the champion golfer-elect.

Instead, he was at nine-hole Rush in deepest Fingal, about to claim the Easter Bunny outing of the Soiled and Ancient Golf Society from a field of 24 hackers.

The delay on the 18th was of no distraction to the portly bus driver, who was well used to traffic in his day job. He calmly ushered the match behind to join them on the final tee with the nonchalance of a golfer at ease with himself, and his scorecard.

And what a card it was. On this magical Monday, bursting with the first hint of early summer, 27-handicap Vinny had been inspired in the society’s only strokeplay outing of the year.

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His drives had been short and straight; his mid-irons crisp, the chipping secure, but it was on the greens where Vinny revelled.

Usually jiggy over short putts, Vinny had casually stroked home a cluster of the testy tiddlers –all left-handed.

In a moment of inventiveness, Vinny had decided to follow the lead of newly-crowned Masters champion Bubba Watson and putt the wrong way around, just for the short ones. He had reasoned, over a feed of pints in Foley's the night before that as six of the last 12 winners at Augusta were left-handed, there must be something to the lefties' lark.

As his old Ben Sayers blade putter was reversible, he simply switched from right-handed to left and watched in astonishment as a snaky three-footer ducked into the hole at the first hole for a Jolly Jack Tar – par.

When he escaped with a six at the demanding second, after holing another knee-knocker, Vinny became emboldened.

With his brush strokes decorating the links, Vinny covered the first nine holes in an improbable 44 strokes, nine over par, and was in dreamland as he mounted the hill by the clubhouse for the start of the second nine.

Over the next eight holes, Vinny needed just 12 putts, two of which were of jiggy range, and as he waited for the fairway to clear on the short par four last he asked Fran for the scores on the doors.

“You’re 16 over and need a par at the last for a net 59. You’ll be getting an invitation to Augusta next.”

Vinny smiled and shrugged. Every dog has its day and this was his. He waggled his trusty brassie and took aim, slightly left of centre, so as to avoid the pond – he didn’t feel he had the necessary oomph to carry it.

The drive was caught square, avoided trouble and trundled towards a small rise in the fairway, from where he could see the top of the flag.

Allowing for the westerly breeze off his right, Vinny clipped a seven-iron towards the apron and watched in delight as his trusty Top Flite XL scuttled between bunkers flanking the green.

By now, a knot of society members had gathered, aware that something special was happening. Charlie St John Vernon, the society secretary, gave Vinny the thumbs up. Vinny waved back, and for a fleeting moment he was the Golden Bear walking up the last at St Andrews in ’78.

From the fringe, he deftly clipped an eight-iron to within a yard of the pin. Reaching for his putter, his nerve held and the ball plopped unerringly into the cup. Against the odds, Vinny Fitzpatrick had just completed the finest round of golf in his life – 86 blows for a net score of 59.

As he was mobbed by his peers, , Vinny had never felt so exhilarated. The prize-giving would be quick as there was only one three-ball to finish, after which Barney’s Bus would bring the motley crew back to Foley’s for mountains of toasted sarnies and a curer.

After showering, Vinny took care to tuck in his shirt and hoist up his Farrah slacks, patted down his hair, and prepared his speech.

He had to thank Rush Golf Club and his playing partners and Charlie for putting up the prizes – there was a €100 voucher for the winner for dinner in swanky Van Gogh’s restaurant in Vernon Avenue.

As he pushed open the door to the bar, Vinny was greeted by the sound of silence. Something was up. He looked around the room and was disconcerted no one would make eye contact.

Had he signed his card? Yes. And he’d also checked Fran’s tally against his own. Had someone in the last match come in with a 58? That was impossible. What in the Dickens’ could it be?

"Vinny, have you a moment?" called out Charlie Vernon, beckoning Vinny into the empty dining area. Vinny stiffened: the tidings had to be grim. "I'll spit it out, Vinny," sighed Charlie. "There's been a complaint that your three-ball played off the wrong tee box on the 12th hole. Instead of playing from the upper tee, you played off the lower one, which was the third. What's your recall?"

Vinny wrinkled his brow. He’d taken a five at the hole before, the 11th where Brennie’s brilliant birdie ensured the three lads had made their way to the next in high spirits. He could see them now, walking down to the tee box, to the third, not up, to the 12th where they should have gone.

“Jaypurs, Charlie, I think we did take a wrong turn there. What happens now?”

Charlie grimaced. “This is where the game can be unfair, Vinny. You see, you effectively signed for an incorrect score, which means automatic disqualification. I’m sorry.”

Aghast, Vinny looked out at the links and asked –. “Who flagged this up?” Charlie stiffened. “It was, er, Dial-A-Smile. He was playing behind you and saw it . . .”

Vinny could feel his blood boil. “Tell me Charlie, if that snivelling wretch had informed us of our transgression, could we have added on the two-shot penalty before handing in the cards?”

Charlie, who was studying the floor intently, nodded. “Yes, that would have been absolutely fine. You’d have won by six shots, not eight.”

He paused. “Then again, maybe Dial-A-Smile had a reason to stay silent. Your disqualification means he’s the winner.” At that, a furious Vinny bolted towards the locker room, jowls trembling in anger. He had just thought of another use for his two-sided putter.