One of my most abiding sporting memories is playing competitive junior golf for the first time (I was about 13) and being gripped by a near suffocating sense of fear.
Trying to hold a golf club correctly was proving beyond my ken.
My grandfather, who had nurtured my golfing interest and would be in his early seventies at the time, ambled over to me between holes.
I cannot recall what it was he suggested changing, but it had an immediately beneficial effect. “How can an old man see something like that,” I wondered, clearly oblivious to the meaning of the word ‘experience’.
I was reminded of this incident earlier in the week when speaking with Rick Cressman, owner of Nailcote Hall, venue for this year’s Farm Foods British Par 3 Championship. Rick had called to tell me that Bernard Hunt, a massive supporter of the event, had passed away, aged 83.
“He was such a great guy,” said Rick, “someone who always took the trouble to speak to younger players and pass on any snippets of his experience. A few years ago, when he was aged 75, he was in fourth place in the par 3 championship after the first day. His short iron play was remarkably accurate and he could still play a bit too.”
Indeed he could. You don’t get to play in the Ryder Cup eight times and act as captain twice if you’re on the wrong side of excellent, but Bernard Hunt MBE was also a fantastic tournament player.
“Nowadays, he might be a jet-setting superstar,” said Cressman, “but I doubt it. The easier pace of life, passing on advice, seemed to suit him down to the ground.”
I wonder what he would have made of 14-year-old Loui Walker, who secured a very competitive Juniors Open Par 3 Championship on the Cromwell Course at Nailcote Hall last Sunday by posting a level par 54.
Loui will now line up with the pros such as Sam Torrance, Tony Jacklin and Ian Woosnam back at Nailcote Hall in August.
“I just can’t wait,” said a delighted Loui. “I suspect it’s the type of thing Bernard would have said,” mused Rick. “He retained his enthusiasm for golf right up to the end.”
* Peter Sharkey is playing in the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship, staged at Nailcote Hall between 6-9 August. We’ll be following his progress as he prepares for the event.