Martin Dempster: Senior service in golf is something not to be ashamed of

Why I’m now regretting delay to my debut in the 55s-and-over ranks

Aberdour was the setting for a senior four-ball better-ball Open won with a net score of 54.
Aberdour was the setting for a senior four-ball better-ball Open won with a net score of 54.

I’ve finally taken the plunge. After putting it off for more than a year, I’m now officially a playing member in the senior ranks.

Why, I hear you ask, did it take me until last week’s Aberdour Senior Four-ball Better-ball Open to get round to that, having turned 55 a year past August?

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A busy work and social life, I suppose, but it was also because I was reluctant to admit that I’m getting on in life, even though that happens to us all.

It was a home course debut on a glorious September afternoon in the company of my three regular golfing partners, with all but one of us complaining of a sore back before setting out.

Seriously, some of the grunts and groans on the way round were as loud as the noises being made by seals out in the Firth of Forth.

From a scoring point of view, it was a day to forget for my partner and me. Our better-ball effort at the par-3 first was a 6, which was quickly followed by a 7 at the par-3 third. There was no way back from that dismal start.

Our teamwork – or lack of it – was summed up when, with the Covid-19 world in mind, I decided not to pick up my partner’s provisional ball at one hole but knock it across the fairway with a club.

“Did you get my ball?” he asked as we headed towards the green, having not seen what I’d done, and, lo and behold, we couldn’t then find it in the rough. “It was a Titleist Pro V1 that I’d only hit once,” he dropped into the conversation as we eventually laughed about it.

A round that took four hours and 15 minutes was no laughing matter, but that was perhaps to be expected due to a full starting sheet for the Fife club’s one and only open competition in this Covid-hit year.

It was Lee Trevino, of course, who famously said, “I can’t wait to play against the round bellies instead of the flat bellies”, as he prepared to make his debut on the Champions Tour around 30 years ago.

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Believe me, I’ve worked hard over the years in getting ready to become a “round belly”, but, on this evidence at least, there doesn’t seem to be too many around these days.

All around the course, I saw blokes looking extremely fit, which was great to see, especially after hearing Dr Andrew Murray, the European Tour’s chief medical officer, talking a few times over the past few months about golf being a sport that provides physical benefits.

One would certainly have felt he’d got his daily exercise, having turned around at one point to see him charging down a hill with his arms going like a windmill as he chased after a runaway electric trolley.

The group in front of us included a friendly face in Andy McDonald, who is now enjoying retirement after working in the R&A championship department. He’d entered the event on the back of my regular tweets about golfing at Aberdour and wasn’t disappointed. “There are worse places to play golf,” he shouted over, enjoying a stunning view across to Edinburgh.

Whether McDonald, who plays at St Andrews, and his playing partner, Craigie Hill’s Kenny MacKinnon, will be welcomed back is debatable. Even for a four-ball better-ball, a winning score of 54 was some effort, but credit where credit is due as I could clearly see they were enjoying the game and also the company of the others in their group.

I’m now regretting my decision to delay that debut because, on this evidence, playing senior golf is nothing to be ashamed of. Roll on the next one and hopefully those aches and pains will have cleared up by then.

Tiger Woods made me eat humble pie when he returned to winning ways in majors last April and now it’s Bryson DeChambeau’s turn after opening his account.

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I honestly didn’t think his aggressive style of play could be rewarded on tougher tests than PGA Tour courses, but I certainly take my hat off to him for proving me wrong with his US Open win at Winged Foot. His golf was exceptional, showing us that his short game is just as impressive as those booming drives.

Due to the laborious and, sometimes, childish way he goes about his business, he will never be everyone’s cup of tea. But he seems to actually thrive on that, so don’t expect him to change in 
any form.

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