You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Our endeavours should at times contain lightness. Some of the crusades we embark on must be entirely stupid. Such is my seven-year pursuit of a golf trophy called the Green Jacket.
The green jacket I seek ought not be confused with the smart green blazer presented each year at the smarmiest prizegiving known to world sport. You know the event I refer to — the ceremony during which those elitist tossers at the Augusta National Golf Club retreat from the lowing crowd to a twee cabin where they "privately’’ enrobe the winner of The Masters. (In front of only 15 million viewers.) I await the day when the new champ, after thanking his wife, God and sponsors, puts his hand into the green jacket’s pocket and pulls out the cheese and Marmite sandwich left by the chairman.
While our own green jacket has doubtless been home to the odd cut lunch, it is in some respects inferior to the Masters garment.
Ours is a wrinkled, bilious green, el cheapo windcheater that first caused offence when it was offered free to volunteers at the inaugural Michael Hill NZ Open. I estimate its value at between three and five cents. (Dry cleaned).
I believe it was Moses — a sand-belt golfer — who came down from the mountain in 2012 and declared that each year four couples would polish their clubs, mount their camels, and venture into the wilderness in search of a Great Golfing Prize.
Their trophy became this green jacket — an item found stuffed in a golf bag belonging to one of those chosen for the quest. The questees number the Hodges — sound people on some occasions — and Captain Crockett plus the Navigator he requires whether airborne or grounded. There is Sir Paul, whose life has been on the up ever since he met his farmer’s daughter, a beauty who whacks the ball past Christmas.
We add The Duchess (while golfing, she may be addressed as "Ma’am’’) — and myself — and we have a field of eight.
The quest’s first golfing destinations were modest places such as Omakau, Tarras and Otautau. But as the legend of the green jacket grew, the tournament moved to golf’s higher churches — places like Terrace Downs, Wairakei and Cape Kidnappers.
Each year the newest victor’s name was stitched on to Le Blouson Verte — but never the name of your columnist. As the years passed, the quest turned into a cruel test of his psyche — so much so that last year when he entered the final round four strokes in the lead, the mere thought of victory made him lose his head. While preparing acceptance speeches, he plummeted to last.
In 2018, the green jacket became international, played over a five-course Tasmanian series. It began badly at Barnbougle, where on a testing links course I drove the ball with the grace of an orangutan with piles — and next putted with as many twitches as the said ape’s consulting proctologist.
A new approach was needed. Perhaps I should give up any pretence of beamish sportsmanship and arrive at the first tee loathing my opponents. All this required was that by some trick of the mind, I learn to hate my friends.
It was my good fortune the tournament coincided with the Aussies’ royal commission into their banks. And as inquiries go, this was a ripper. Each breakfast’s newspapers brought fresh news explaining how 99% of their banks are bringing the rest into disrepute.
One banker explained how lazily the dead protest when charged service fees. Another detailed the lark of billing for investment meetings that never happen. The next bank jonny explained methods for keeping silly regulators at bay with serial porkies. On and on it went. The most encouraging news was that the banks demonstrated strong progress in gender equality — a good proportion of the crims in suits were women.
My golfing answer was obvious. I was to prepare for each match with a five-minute session convincing myself my opponent was actually a banker. With that achieved, I could grind this loathsome opponent into the topsoil, charging all manner of fees as I did.
Did this work? Have I created a new sports psychology called Biff the Banker? Well put it this way — even as I write, my name is being embroidered on the jacket. But not because I managed to convince my mind that my opponents were bankers. (That proved a thought too far). I won using the strategy which is the number one cause for golfing victory — I looked on as my opponents played like dogs. Bless them.
- John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.