An­drew Cot­ter

Golf is more than a game. It cre­ates life­long bonds and special mem­o­ries

Today's Golfer (UK) - - First Tee - Part of the BBC com­men­tary team, An­drew Cot­ter grew up tack­ling Ayr­shire’s links and plays off 3. Fol­low him on Twit­ter (@Mran­drew­cot­ter)

Who was it that first got you into golf? For me, there were a num­ber of fam­ily mem­bers in­volved since, when I first played, I was three years old and work as­so­ciates were thin on the ground. There were my par­ents, of course, and also my grand­fa­ther. But per­haps the big­gest in­flu­ence was one of my un­cles.

A large part of it was be­cause he was around a lot more, as my fa­ther’s job took him south to the big smoke. What’s more, my dad had a reg­u­lar habit of re­turn­ing from golf and hurl­ing his clubs into a cor­ner – loudly and an­grily an­nounc­ing his re­tire­ment from the “stupid bloody game”.

But while my fa­ther shared my own dark tem­per­a­ment, my uncle was usu­ally of a much more sunny dis­po­si­tion and so a few holes with him was an up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Also be­cause, as my fa­ther would grudg­ingly ad­mit, his brother was a far bet­ter golfer so we played to­gether quite a bit as I grew up.

I say to­gether – in fact we played rather dif­fer­ent games, tend­ing to take al­ter­na­tive routes. We would start a hole side-by­side and prob­a­bly share a walk for the first hun­dred yards or so, then our two paths would di­verge – his to the mid­dle of the fair­way, mine into the deep rough a cou­ple of fur­longs ahead.

We would then re­con­vene closer to the green with him qui­etly tap­ping in for par and me brush­ing bits of sand, fo­liage and as­sorted de­bris from my shoul­der, hav­ing re­turned from an au­da­cious yet fu­tile at­tempt to es­cape from an ad­join­ing fair­way.

“Why don’t you just hit a 3-wood oc­ca­sion­ally? You don’t need the ex­tra dis­tance” he might sug­gest.

“Yes, I prob­a­bly should do” I’d re­ply, pulling off the driver’s head­cover once more.

But such a gen­er­ous golf­ing part­ner was he, that every one of my wild drives was met with some­thing along the lines of: “My good­ness you caught that one – what a DIS­TANCE you hit it!” and I would grit my teeth, smile and start my long walk to­wards the gorse again.

There were even the occasional days of mi­nor suc­cess – and I re­call him beam­ing with hap­pi­ness when I reached the fi­nal of a big Ayr­shire tour­na­ment. There was also, more re­cently, a real pride in what­ever ram­blings I was al­lowed to do on tele­vi­sion.

But more than any­thing else he was just there – a fix­ture of the golf course – of­ten tin­ker­ing with a new driver from the pro shop which he’d been as­sured would fi­nally find him an ex­tra 20 yards.

“Here… have a look at this. What do you think?” he would say, and the ball would soar straight and true, out to the same point that every drive he had ever hit had landed. “Cer­tainly looks to be go­ing a bit fur­ther,” I would lie. Then, a cou­ple of months ago, we found out that he was ill. And very quickly he was gone.

Of course ev­ery­body suf­fers loss in their lives and per­haps you are won­der­ing why you’re read­ing about this in between ar­ti­cles on the short game or pleas­ant news about Adam Scott’s hair.

Well, Bri­tish, and cer­tainly Scot­tish men of a cer­tain vin­tage are cu­ri­ously re­served beasts. Out­pour­ings of af­fec­tion are lim­ited to mono­syl­la­bles. An ex­pres­sion of real love is al­ways left un­said – or at the very most comes out as a pat on the shoul­der or a brief chat about sport.

I was told, when first asked to do this column, that I could write on pretty much any sub­ject. So I thought I’d like to say some­thing about some­body who meant a great deal and who adored the game. And when I think now of play­ing with my uncle, the weather is al­ways good. This isn’t purely through the haze of nos­tal­gia, as we both tended to­wards fair-weather out­ings. But golf, for me, con­tains so many mem­o­ries – you select which ones you choose to re­call.

I may not have played much of late, but golf has been in­ex­tri­ca­bly en­twined with the rest of my life. A con­stant pres­ence.

How­ever much the sport is crit­i­cised for tak­ing too long or be­ing too out of touch, it’s some­thing so many peo­ple will have shared with friends or that has tight­ened fam­ily bonds. That’s why, in the mem­o­ries that I keep of my uncle, they will no doubt be on a golf course some­where. I am prob­a­bly re­fus­ing to hit a 3-wood… but the sun will be shin­ing.

’ How­ever much golf is crit­i­cised, it’s some­thing so many will have shared with friends’

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