The Wednesday Pro-Am of the BMW PGA from Wentworth has become a firm favourite in our sporting calendar and a day where preparation is key to one’s enjoyment of proceedings. As a veteran of many racecourse hypothermic incidents I’ve developed a cautious approach to clothing at outdoor events, but knew in the taxi to the station that my jeans and fleece approach to what was becoming a scorching summer’s day was a little wide of the mark.
Simon had an issue with his oyster (card, not crustacean, I believe) and so was slightly delayed into Virginia Water. This allowed me time to scour the Age UK shop near the station for a pair of emergency shorts for the baking temperatures that were unfolding. The range was limited, and if you were requiring a 40” waist it was limited to none. I wondered if they’d had a whole rack full before the earlier trains came in. A pair of beige 36” Pierre Cardins would do and, even if they didn’t quite fit, were a bit of a steal at £2.99.
“That was quick!” said the mature lady behind the till. I felt like telling her that I was panic-buying my way out of an earlier clothing error and didn’t usually frequent charity shops for items two sizes too small for me, but instead just smiled and issued a non-committal “ehm”.
Simon was delighted with the news of my emergency shorts when he arrived, but he too had also selected long trousers for the day and I knew he was secretly jealous, or at least would be later on when the West Course became a scene from Bridge over the River Kwai. He revealed that he had remained a 36” waist for the last 25 years, which I felt was unnatural.
Before the shuttle bus set off a man clearly revelling in his role, and accompanying hi-vis bib, informed the captive audience on the top deck that when we arrived at the course we should head for the entrance. Thanks for that. On arrival we heeded his sage advice and headed for the entrance, rather than choosing a random compass bearing.
It was £20 to get in. Simon and I reminisced about the early days when it was free, and a lot less formal and busy. It seemed a strange inversion of the price elasticity of demand curve, if only I could remember my university days. Actually, I can remember lots from my university days, just not price elasticity of demand.
It was prudent to stock up on fluids before embarking on the trek, so we paused at the Show Stage bar. There is a suspension of normal drinking rules if either travelling or watching a sporting event (technically, we were doing both), and indeed some might say that 11am is a tad late to set out your stall. Like camels heading into the desert, we stocked up. Indeed, Simon told a marvellous camel joke, which I am sadly unable to reproduce in this forum.
But we couldn’t sit around drinking average and expensive lager all day. There was golf to watch, so we retired to the relative safety of the grandstand behind the 18th green to witness the chaos unfold. From our perch it all looked rather easy and we could not work out how the assorted amateurs were making such a hash of it, but golf of this standard is somehow more pleasing to watch as it is closer to the game that we know.
Naga Munchetty plotted a precise path into the brook in front of the green. I had no idea who she was, but Simon insisted that I must as though I had nothing better to do with my time than watch breakfast TV. I did know who Jodie Kidd was. She also plotted a remarkably accurate, although more zig-zaggy, path to the same stretch of water. I wondered if the rules had changed and the aim was to find a hazard rather than the hole.
We decided to get amongst the action and as we walked back down the fairway Simon was almost immediately hit by the ball of either Mike Rutherford, multi-millionaire musician, 14, or Mark Austin, multi-millionaire newsreader, 16 (handicaps, not ages). I am unable to reveal further details due to impending legal action, although I can say that there was no shout of “Fore!”, and that both multi-millionaires seemed totally unimpressed by Simon’s mock injury as they sauntered past, presumably thinking the general public are nicer from a distance.
After emergency and imaginary surgery to remove a multi-millionaire’s golf ball from his brain, Simon recovered sufficiently to join me as we progressed anti-clockwise around the Surrey layout. Going ‘against the stream’ maximises the golf on offer, as well as taking in the best of the eateries, although the roast pork bap was one of the worst I’ve had in recent years and, as Simon pointed out, I should know.
I wouldn’t say I was fat. My ‘friends’ certainly would, as would my children, and my parents. My wife keeps a diplomatic silence on the matter and just occasionally questions my double-carb theory. But as the fierce sun continued to melt my dark coloured jeans and catering staff enquired whether they could borrow them to fry eggs, I realised it was time to break out the emergency shorts. Simon gleefully captured the action as both patrons and celebrity golfers were simultaneously blinded by my winter-white legs and distressed by the visible conflict between my shorts and waistline.
I wasn’t having any of Simon’s 36” protestations, though, and on the shuttle bus back to the station bet him £20 that he too would be unable to do up the shorts that had obviously been shrunk in the wash by their previous inhabitant. It must have looked suspicious, two grown men disappearing down a dark alley, and even more suspicious when a few minutes later they reappeared wearing different trousers and with one of them sporting a £20 note and broad grin.