Vinny has at least 1,200 reasons why he should be allowed join Carrickbrack Golf Club

The potential switch from society to club – should it happen – was akin to swopping The Capri chipper for a Michelin-starred restaurant

As he steered Angie’s shiny Volkswagen Passat up the meandering drive of Carrickbrack Golf Club on Monday morning, Vinny felt his fingers and toes tingle, just like they did when he was having a bet.

In a way, Vinny was about to gamble, as he was putting his reputation on the line, and hard-earned cash too, with his application for full membership of a private members golf club.

For someone who’d spent all of his golfing life as a hacker with the Soiled and Ancient Golf Society attached to Foley’s pub, Vinny’s potential switch – should it happen – was akin to swopping The Capri chipper for a Michelin-starred restaurant.

To be a real golfer, to play in competitions with an actual handicap recognised by the Golfing Union of Ireland, was something the Soiled and Ancient foozlers could only dream of.


In the Foley’s hierarchy, lads like Charlie St John Vernon, who were fee-paying members of private golf clubs, were akin to monarchy. When Charlie spoke of the monthly medal at Royal Dublin, the others would gather around in awe to hear such wondrous expressions such as ‘back tees’ and ‘gross score’.

It was Charlie who pointed Vinny in the direction of Carrickbrack, an undulating nine-holer overlooking the Bull Island and Dublin Bay which would celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2014.

Having run into financial difficulty, Carrickbrack was crying out for new members to such an extent that it had waived its five-figure entrance fee and was seeking 50 new members for next year at a knock down price of €1,200.

Charlie Vernon had persuaded two member pals to propose and second Vinny whose application hinged on passing his 11am interview with a Carrickbrack committee triumvirate.

Martello Tower
As he entered the turreted atrium of Carrickbrack – the clubhouse was a converted Martello Tower which dated back to the days of the Spanish Armada – Vinny wondered if he had over-dressed.

At Angie’s insistence, he had worn his only decent jacket, a navy blue one, with white shirt and maroon tie to match. His grey trousers had been dry cleaned and his one pair of good black shoes polished with lashings of elbow grease.

He headed upstairs, as directed, and, after checking his watch, knocked three times on the door marked Committee. From within, a female voice called out ‘‘enter’’.

The inquisitors, which was what they were to Vinny, were all on the back nine of life. Two of them were male, one beefy, bull-necked and armed with a fine handlebar moustache, the other, scrawny, sallow and bald as a coot.

Their place names indicated they were Herbert Wolstenholme, the honorary secretary, and Frank McMoore, the honorary treasurer.

Between them was the Lady Captain, Esme Chance, who was a ringer for Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served.

Vinny made a mental note to direct all his answers to Esme Chance after she spoke first. ''Ah, Mister Fitzpatrick, do come in. We have been expecting you. Welcome to Carrickbrack, we trust this won't be your last time among us,'' she trilled.

Vinny’s occupation brought a raised eyebrow from Beefy Wolstenholme, while his long link to the Soiled And Ancient Society drew a titter from the Lady Captain.

‘‘Tell me, Vincent,’’ she said, leaning forward suggestively, ‘‘have you ever played a round?’’

Vinny gulped and went a ripe red as a Cox’s pippin. ‘‘No, I haven’t, absolutely not. I’m happily married and have been completely faithful to my wife as promised, on oath, on our wedding day. If I may, Lady Captain, I find your question improper.’’

Esme Chance laughed heartily. ‘‘Vincent, you are mistaken. We only wanted to ascertain have you ever played a round at Carrickbrack.’’

Being the innocent chap he was, Vinny blundered on. 'Well, there was the night I chased Sadie Simmons into the big bunker by the clubhouse when we snuck in on our way back the Summit Inn disco. Does that count?' he asked innocently.

Beefy Wolstenholme harrumphed loudly, while the scrawny hon treasurer stared at Vinny as if he had two heads. It was left to Esme Chance to make light of Vinny’s mis-understanding.

‘‘Friends, I think Mr Fitzpatrick, safe to say, has got the thin edge of the wedge of my questions. If I’ve been too familiar, I apologise,’’ she said with a smile.

Offered to give an account of his golfing highs and lows, Vinny spoke with pride of his lone Golfer of the Year success with the Soiled and Ancient, and how his handicap was once as low as 22 but was now 27 and heading south. ''I should be off 30 in the society at the end of year review, watch me do damage then,'' he grinned.

Splendid whiskers
Beefy Wolstenholme twirled his splendid whiskers and raised a large hand. ''If I may Esme,'' he said deferring to the Lady Captain. ''Mr Fitzpatrick, do you happen to know what the maximum handicap in golf is, for both men and women?''

Vinny stared down Mr Beefy without a bat of an eye lid. ''Yes, and I know what it should be too, 36 for men and 45 for women, like we have in society golf. And as soon I become a member here, I'll start hassling the GUI to follow suit.

‘‘Most people who play this great game need at least 100 blows to get around, if not more, and that’s on a good day. So why not help them as much as possible? I’m all in favour of high handicaps,’’ he argued.

The final question was left to Esme Chance. ‘‘Vincent, give us one good reason why we should approve your application to join us here in Carrickbrack?’’

Vinny paused, looked out the window, where the flag on the first green was fluttering the distance. He knew his profile as a bus driver and part-time society bunny would have the founding fathers of Carrickbrack spinning in their graves.

‘‘I’ll give you more than one reason,’’ he said softly, reaching inside his jacket pocket from where he fingered a white envelope. ‘‘Twelve hundred reasons, all there, in cash.’’

With that, he pushed the envelope across the table and winked at Esme Chance.