Golf, they say, can be a cruel game. But consider this. This fall, I played on a golf course for the first time in my life alongside players, all of whom were much better golfers than me. But at the end of the 18 holes, played under the blazing sun, I was one of the select few to win a prize!
But forget the prize, I’m writing this piece to share my memorable golfing experience with you. What an experience it was!
The occasion was the inaugural THK Solutions Golf Tournament at the DA Golf and Country Club. My good friend Azhar Hameed was kind enough to send me an invitation and even though I had never ventured out on a golf course, I was brave enough to accept it.
I had a few days to prepare myself for the debut which meant that Jamal Badshah, my coach, had to become my saviour. I spent a few hours with JB at the practice range trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to fix my drive. It’s not that I couldn’t hit the ball. At times, when the golfing gods are kind, I can hit a pretty decent and straight drive covering around 250 yards, sometimes a little more. But such shots are few and far between. On most occasions, the ball makes a fair distance but fades off to the right. For those who have not played or followed golf, I must tell you that its one of the poorest shots in the book. For that, I blame my cricketing background.
As a batting allrounder during my younger days, I always fancied hitting over covers or mid-off. I was not a good on-side player. When I started taking golf lessons a few months back I was warned by JB that I’ll need to work extra hard on curbing the fade that takes my tee shot to the right. "There are two problems with your game," he told me. "Firstly you are a batsman and secondly you like to hit cover drives and that’s a fatal combo when it comes to golf."
My saving grace is that one of my favourite cricket shots was hitting straight, over the bowler’s head. Hence the occasional tee shot that almost lands where I want it to land. With a few days to go before my tournament debut, I tried to spend maximum possible time on the practice range. But unfortunately it was just around five hours spread over four days. My drive was far from satisfactory, my chipping was poor and my putting… well better not talk about it.
But mentally, I was ready. The weather around eight in the morning on match day seemed fine but unfortunately it deteriorated in the lead up to tee off and by the time team formations were being announced the picturesque DA course was starting to feel like an oven. But in spite of the baking sun, all of us, 90 to be precise, were looking forward to the shot-gun start.
The day-long tournament was to be held on the popular Texas Scramble format that is a variation of a scramble, where each member of a team hits a tee shot on each hole. The best tee shot on the hole is selected and then each team member completes the hole with their own ball from that chosen location and is awarded a given number of points for their score. It is a format that rewards both team and individual play using the popular Stableford format as a basis for scoring.
I was told that Texas Scramble is one of the most fun golf games to play. I was also told that my partner was Parvez Hanif while the other team in our flight was the duo of Farooq Tareen and Mohib Hasan. Parvez Hanif, a business consultant by profession, regrets taking up golf a bit late but seems to have made up for lost time by playing it on a daily basis for the last few years. It was because of him that we began our 18- hole sojourn with a scintillating birdie. He had a chip-in from at least 40 feet and we were celebrating. The lead was ours after the first hole but that was it.
Farooq Tareen and Mohib Hasan were the better of the two teams and it showed during most of the next 17 holes. With Farooq’s accuracy and Hasan ability to hit long, they were soon in the lead. But to me the scorecard that had started showing our team finishing with bogies and doubles bogies was of little importance. For the first seven or eight holes, I had a whale of a time.
Apart from a few bad shots, I was playing alright and my fellow golfers were not ready to believe that it was my first day on a golf course. But then, it all changed as my game began to fall apart. My shots started to go haywire and I even forgot my grip. It took me a few minutes to realize that my body, which is now more used to desk work than playing 18 holes of golf under demanding conditions, was beginning to give up.
The next few holes were forgettable as Mr Hanif tried to salvage some disastrous stroke-making from his partner -- me! It took several glasses of ‘nembu-paani’ laced with lots of ‘kaala namak’ that finally helped me recover from what was obviously exhaustion triggered by dehydration. I started walking tall again as my shots improved. But it was mostly thanks to my partner that we finished with a gross score of 92, which I thought wasn’t too bad. But I should have known better, especially after my partner sneaked out after a sumptuous lunch but before the prize distribution.
The duo of Durdana Soomro, an avid golfer and former Lady Captain of Karachi Golf Club, and Nida Nadeem Inam ul Huq hogged the limelight by bagging the top prize with a net score of 53. Just one shot behind them were Abu Bakar Mamat, the Malaysian Consul General and Ali us Sajjad Khan, GM Pepsi Cola (Iraq) who secured the runners-up prize. The various winners received their prizes from Bari Mian of Sindh Golf Association and Khurshid Hadi, chairman of THK Solutions.
Among the participants, who surprisingly missed out on a chance to win a prize, was my former ‘The News’ colleague and eminent media man Azhar Abbas. Along with his partner, Azhar finished with a gross score of two-over 74, which is a stellar performance. And what about the prize which I managed to bag on my very first outing on a golf course? Well, some things are better left unsaid. I’ll give you a hint though: One thing that I learned during my debut tournament is that golf is actually a very cruel game!