The efficient park and ride operation takes ten minutes through leafy Surrey lanes and into the prestigious estate. Sitting on the top deck allows better viewing for the “which mansion shall I choose to live in?” game. Frankly I’d take any of them, but I’m drawn more to the classical styles that seem to sit coherently in their surroundings, rather than the sometimes brutal creations that suggest a cross between a greenhouse and a prison.
We are deposited at the BMW PGA Championship Village, or BMW PGA TCV if you are really into TLAs, and £15 secures your ticket to the stars. There’s a relaxed vibe with dozens of enormous bean bags strewn about the place. Nobody is lolling in them but it’s early I suppose. They could be difficult to secure by late afternoon, though, after the Show Stage Bar has seen some business.
There are also dozens of BMWs. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by that really, and lots of kids as well, which is surprising. They whack ineptly at the Mega Putt Challenge and infest the EA Sports Lounge, and seem content enough at the moment. If all else fails, there is a crèche and a bar literally a stone’s throw from each other. There is a Lindt shop which is expensive and doesn’t seem to sell much. Instead, passers-by scavenge free chocolates from a waiter with a silver salver, but he doesn’t seem to mind. The Moet Bar is completely empty, but they don’t have a tray of freebies, sadly.
Anyway, I haven’t come here to buy cars or chocolate, so I head for the big stand at the back of the 18th green. This is Pro-Am day, where famous celebrities and less famous BMW executives play a round with the professionals. I like this sort of golf – it’s closer to the game I know and sporadically attempt. I think Sky should televise it, along with park football on a Sunday morning and late night Scrabble.
There are grey skies and a grey audience, who eat an awful lot of individually-wrapped cakes and clap politely when the amateurs get out of a bunker in less than five shots. The 18th hole was butchered by Ernie Els a few years ago (he was allowed to, and even paid to do so, the rumours are) which ruined the best closing stretch in golf. Nobody now hits the par five in two, and the green seems very hard and very slopey. The water at the front and bunker at the back are popular spots (popular as in frequently found).
John Francome, ex-greatest-jockey, makes a surprise appearance. Then Keith Wood, the legendary Irish and Lions hooker, emerges but he just seems to be walking and not hitting (which was unlike his rugby days in both respects). Has he had enough and thrown his clubs in the lake on the 8th? Someone gives him a putter to join in and he nearly drains a 40-footer.
Then the fourball of Graeme McDowell, AP McCoy, Mick Fitzgerald and Carl Llewellyn come through. They all seem to be playing like double-digit handicappers, which most of them are, but the giant scoreboard says the group is -11. Curious. As they come off the green I ask Mick how it’s going, and which of the jockeys is winning. “I’d say it was a draw, because we’re all playing shit!” He seems chirpy enough though and signs my programme, whereas AP looks miserable and rushes past.
It’s a shotgun start which means that the head greenkeeper is allowed to shoot anyone not wearing soft spikes. For the afternoon session I head to the first tee where Masters Champion Danny Willett is partnering Michael Vaughan (ex-England cricketer), Graeme Swann (ex-England cricketer) and the unusually-named Ian Hosegood. I don’t know who he is but he plays off 14 and must be very nervous. He’s also wearing an ill-advised shirt, but at least seems to have soft spikes on. An unusual swing, but he connects with the ball and it clears the Ladies tee, which saves embarrassment for everybody.
By the putting green a fat girl says to her friend, in between gobfuls of burger, “I just wanna see if Jeremy is here….I’m gonna be well upset if he’s not!” I scan the draw for a Jeremy and can only find a Kyle. Perhaps the shotgun might come in useful after all? It’s very relaxed on the putting green. There is lots of chatting and occasional putting. It is also relaxed out on the course, and in the The Championship Village, and probably in the clubhouse too if I was allowed in. It must be fantastic being a golf professional, but possibly a tad boring after a while?
I drift over to the practice range where Andy Sullivan is doing a Masterclass, which seems to involve lots of chatting and occasional practice. Some kids have a microphone, I think they’re meant to, and are asking him questions. “Who was your idol when you were growing up?” asks one eager young lad. “Paul Broadhurst” Andy replies. The kids look a bit bemused.
I waft back through TCV, where some of the big bean bags are now occupied. On the bus back I get to see the mansions on the other side of the road and choose my favourite, which narrowly defeats my favourite from this morning in a playoff. A Wentworth Wednesday is a fine way to spend a few hours. It’s a bit like a day at the cricket, except more spread out, and a tad more relaxed. And there’s always a chance you can bump into Jeremy Kyle.