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Golf can be a harsh game when you’re not playing well, you get injured, or you snatch defeat from the jaws of success. But what about when you have a 3-point lead a get beaten by an amazing 5-point birdie? That can hurt. But it didn’t. No pain at all.

Spring Cup comeback

A few weeks ago, I was reunited with a group of good friends at the Telford Hotel Golf and Spa Resort and played in our annual Spring Cup competition. The best single-round stableford score over the weekend would win the coveted silver trophy.

For the past two years, COVID restrictions have caused cancellations, so this event was long overdue. It was going to be a hard-fought competition and I wasn’t feeling at all optimistic.

Falling down in Autumn

During our Autumn competition in South Wales, I played terribly. I was so bad that I almost ran out of balls, clattered one into the Ladies’ convenience on the 10th from which I took relief. Fortunately there were no injuries, mental or physical. I came last or next to last in both rounds. Plain dreadful.

To add injury to insult, since last December I’ve suffered from back problems that were causing pain, reducing mobility and the ability to finish 18 holes, even riding in a buggy. It was pretty depressing, but I reckoned even the golfing greats suffer from occasional back issues, so I was in good company.

Rubber ball dropped at -196 C

Swing to survive

After medical advice I bought a new orthopaedic office chair, changed my mattress topper, and now sleep with pillows under my knees. I do back stretching exercises every morning and I’m in the easy stages of a ‘Fridge to 5K’ programme. It’s making a positive difference. Professional physiotherapy is next. However, I really needed to slow down, destress and smooth out my swing and quick if I was going to survive the rigours of the Spring Cup.

Scrambling to recover

Ideally I wanted a pro to check my swing, but with only a week to go to the Spring Cup, I settled for a quick fix. I recorded video clips of my swing from different angles and spent time comparing it to other tall golfers, finally settling on Masters winner Scottie Scheffler as my swing model.

There were some obvious differences: my knees were bending too much, I was over-swinging, not enough hip rotation, and I had a noticeable lack of PGA Tour wins. So, armed with a plan and good intentions, I went down the range with a few Scheffler moves to choreograph. The results were surprisingly promising.

Tee time in Telford

And so to the first tee of the Spring Cup at Telford in a charged up buggy with my new Scottie Scheffler swing. Round one went pretty well despite the high winds. My shots had improved, more accurate. My swing was smoother and I didn’t have too much back pain. 36 points off 10.7 was a great result, but 38 points was already the score to beat.

On day two I played a little bit better. More familiarity with the course, better green reads, a bit warmer and a lot less wind helped the scoring opportunities.

What could possibly go wrong?

On the 18th tee I had 38 points. Brian, playing with me, had 35 points in the bag and was going to get 2 free shots on the 360 yard par-4. He made the most of them. Brian’s nicely placed drive set up a great approach angle and a brilliant 190 yard 3 wood that came to rest 6 feet below the pin. He holed it. A birdie, net albatross and the vultures were circling for me.

After a great drive, my tentative wedge and chip weren’t my best and my nervy putting was only slightly better than Scottie Scheffler’s 4-putt on his last hole of the Masters. I’d like to think I lost it, but Brian won it with style, no question.

Happiest loss

In hindsight, it was a disappointing final hole for me, but I was happy for Brian and pretty pleased with myself. I’d played 36 holes of mostly pain-free quality golf, putted well and played to my handicap or even better.

A week before, I contemplated not playing at all. It was a comeback of sorts, beating all my expectations, and that’s a victory worth winning.

Play well

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Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and enthusiastic golf improver with a dodgy back.

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