Saturday, September 26, 2009
"3 Peaks" offers road to redemption
There's a little known golf tournament called the "3 peaks challenge".
It's played every year by the same four friends and we've been competing in it since we were kids. As you may imagine it's usually ultra competitive and it has provided some of the most enjoyable, challenging and fulfilling moments of my life.
All square on the 17th, ball 120 yards from the flag but with a copse of trees in the way. You know that you can only hit your sand wedge a maximum of 100 yards but let the adrenalin kick in and simply will the ball to soar over the topmost branches and nestle eighteen inches from the hole.
Asked & delivered.
One year Tim & I even took a day off work to drive across to Chantilly to have a sneaky practice on the course before the official event took place a week later. We take it seriously.
Next month we're going to Biarritz for the three day challenge. It's not a special year and indeed with the current "crise financiere" everyone is working hard and there is far less time to practice. Pre-tournament banter is practically non existent.
For me though it's possibly the most important three days in the history of this illustrious competition.
If Chris & I win then (rather like Brazil) we'll get to keep the trophy and next year Steve & I will take on the other two for the first time.
On paper it looks one sided - Steve & I have the best records over the years and should be clear favourites.
In reality though I will be facing my biggest demon.
You see I have never "choked" on a golf course. We all remember Greg Norman falling apart in 1996 and letting Nick Faldo win the Masters. The pressure was intolerable and he was found wanting. That's never happened to me.
Apart from one time.
Fifteen years ago Steve & I were playing Chris & Tim at Gatton Manor (even now I can hardly bring myself to think about it). It was only a friendly...not even part of our tournament.
They had this thing about never having been beaten and we were just itching to throw it back in their faces.
I have tried to wipe the exact details from my memory banks but I remember getting off to a flier and posting par after par. We were soon six or seven up and if it had been a boxing match the ref would have stopped the fight.
And then it happened. They won a hole and started talking about the greatest ever comeback. They truly believed they could win. They won another hole and the pressure began to tell.
Pars and birdies turned into sevens and eights. We lost.
Asked and failed.
I've missed many putts and hit many bad shots at inopportune times but this was different. I choked. It still haunts me. Others may think it's lack of practice or bad luck but deep inside you know.
So you see - win this year and in 2010 I'll have a chance to banish the demons.
And looking at Stuart Pearce's face above it's going to be a pretty good feeling when I do.