Thursday 25th September 2008. Standing on the first tee in the bronzed light. 10AM. Silkstone golf course, resting on one elbow, reclined decadently before me, a smile on her full lips, an elusive promise between her grassy contours. Like a huge, expansive 18th Century playground. Flambeau lit and damp. A woman of pleasure. Capability Brown, arms folded, lips curled in a shrug, stands in the light rough, watching with reserved approval. That bunker on the 5th is something of an unnecessary eyesore.
I line up my shot. A blue print drawn in my mind. Red line arcing out into the sky, a thick, elongated arrow cresting downwards. Swing. Booshta! A clean connection on the club face, a sense of satisfaction filling my body as I hold the follow through and feel the ball extend out into the landscape, a broad, solid ribbon unfurling in its wake. Like a medieval siege attack on some stubborn walled city. The graphite shafted trebuchet launching the flaming Titelist Pro-V comet full tilt.
‘Nice shot,’ Aetheling says between gritted, plaque coated teeth, as he mounts the raised rectangle of clipped grass. Chewing nicotine gum in another attempt to quit smoking. Stakes his ball between the two yellow markers.
This, I think to myself, re-bagging my club, a swig of still cold Lucozade, is not exactly as it appears. The clubmanship and friendliness. I recall Niccolòs words: The only sound, sure and enduring methods of defence are those based on your own actions and prowess.
The standard nervous twitch, the superstitious rituals. As Aethling starts his down-stroke I cough.
And so it begins.