The players. From L to R: Paul, Freddie, John, Andy, and Neil.
Last week, three generations of Hart family golfers contested the fifteenth edition of the Hart Masters. Eighteen gruelling holes of fiercely contested competitive golf in a classic clash of youth versus questionable experience.
The Hart Masters
Since 2006, my Dad John and my brothers Neil and Andy have all got together to play for the coveted Hart Masters red jacket and silver trophy. Clashing schedules and COVID caused a few pauses in the annual tournament schedule, but this year it was game on with a new Gen-Z qualifier, Andy’s son Freddie. Rumour had it he could play.
A level playing field – for some
The course handicap spread was going to be interesting. Me off a harsh 11, Neil – 15, Andy – 24, Freddie – 26 (unofficial, just for the record), and his grandad John playing off a whopping 38 free shots. Thirty eight!
John Hart. 5th hole. 410 yard par-4. There for minus 2.
He plays every week in the seniors, for goodness sake, and I have a sneaking suspicion he’s been strategically sandbagging his performance for years and gaming the WHS, just waiting for this day to really start playing while Neil and I have been foolishly lowering our handicaps with lessons and hours on the range and putting green. Just saying.
The first tee
Come the big day, we took the group photo and battle commenced. Andy played with Dad while I matched up with Neil and Freddie.
I knew we were in trouble when Freddie tee’d up and hit his first drive. It went miles, with a draw. Must have been 300 yards carry, which counts as a golf mile round these parts. All I could do was get a members bounce off a tree some half a mile shorter.
“Freddie, are you sure you play off 26?” He was way too far down the fairway to hear me.
Freddie on the first tee.
Are you kidding me, Dad?
On the par-3 sixth hole, my Dad, with two free shots in reserve, was closest to the pin off the tee and was 6 feet away for a net minus 1. Surely he hadn’t holed it for 5 points! Thank goodness it was just a measly 4.
After nine holes, it was becoming clear that the handicapping committee needed to urgently convene, but a recalibration wasn’t going to save me this time. John and Andy were lighting up the leaderboard with lots of stableford points. Neil and Freddie were playing pretty well. I had chosen to give them all a good head start to keep them interested. So glad I’d sneaked in a lesson the previous day. That’ll teach me.
The tough get going
Into the back nine and the going got tough. Neil was experiencing a run of unexpected misfortune and I was determined not to come last. Freddie sunk a monster 50-foot putt on the tenth with the help of his PuttBANDIT marker and was managing his free shots wisely enough to be a serious contender. I’d already blown all mine after the blob on twelve despite the longest drive. Still got it, but no consolation.
They think it’s all over – it soon will be
And so, after some tense holes down the stretch, it came to the 18th tee. Neil had hit a great drive, was on the short stuff and then hit the green. Freddie had driven another 300 yards (into the wind this time) fading out right but recovered magnificently. I was in the trees, tried a hero shot, played tree trunk pinball for a bit, didn’t take my medicine and piled on the pain as a result.
And the winner is . . .
Dad and Andy were waiting for us to hole out on the 18th, Dad with a confident smile on his face and Andy less amused. The cards were submitted, complex maths performed and we had a tie on our hands. My Dad and Freddie were both on 37 points apiece.
The crowds hushed as the countback was performed. Dad came close to calling a stewards’ enquiry on an obscure rules technicality but accepted defeat with grace, humility and a lot of pride as his grandson Freddie was announced as the winner. I won’t say who came last on this occasion but it wasn’t me or Andy.
To the winner the jacket
The famous red jacket was placed on the winner’s shoulders by Neil, the champion on the past two outings; the massive ornate trophy was handed over and Freddie Hart was crowned the well-deserved Hart Master golfer of 2022.
This was a great family golfing moment to treasure. It’s not often that three generations of the same family are lucky enough to play the game of golf together in their lifetimes. I hope we will be able to do it all again next year and have just as much fun. By then my handicap will be a lot higher. 38 sounds fair to me.
Happy Father’s day Dad
Paul Hart is a co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT ball marker and did NOT come last in the Hart Masters.
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