THE ROUND THAT GAVE US ALL HOPE
For we crude amateurs, whose murderous swipes at a small, stationary ball look less like a golf swing and more like a startled farmhand thrashing at a scurrying rat with a rake, the remorseless quest for something resembling a decent shot is one fraught with anguish. In full view of the clubhouse, for instance, a pitiful hoik off the first tee in the Elsie McCorkindale Perpetual Rosebowl tends to be followed by the kind of agonised, high-pitched shriek not heard since the Bee Gees had their nether regions hot waxed.
It could be worse, of course. We could play this flummoxing game for a living. Spare a thought then for Pawel Japol, a Polish professional who took 109 blows during the European Challenge Tour's somewhat misleadingly titled Kharkov Superior Cup. There was an 8 in there, and a 9 before a 10 was gingerly scribbled down on the card. A 13 then had to be pencilled in; a remarkable achievement given how difficult it is to write clearly through torrents of salty tears.
All in all, Japol cobbled together a fairly solid round that was sullied by five pars. He did sign his card but promptly withdrew . . . and was last seen walking mournfully into the bleak, Ukrainian steppe.
THE 'WHAT THE DICKENS IS THAT?' AWARD
We have just hurtled through another festive season of giving; a tense time of year when Christmas parcels are rent asunder with the merciless relish of a lion tearing into a stricken Wildebeest only for the excitement to dissolve into crushing disappointment when the recipient realises you've given them a pair of lopping shears that they would never, ever want, even if it was the final gift handed over to mankind in those last moments before a mega-meteor obliterates the planet.
In this gaudy game of gowf, prize-giving ceremonies the world over are now full of bewildered players, smiling awkwardly through clenched teeth and muttering 'what the hell is this?' as a variety of sceptres, orbs, glass monstrosities and the kind of garish odds and sods that used to be stuck to Dame Edna Everage's glasses are thrust into their quivering hands. Even the bounty that comes with Scottish Open success apparently now includes an inflatable Alex Salmond and a foot-pump.
When Amy Yang won the LPGA's HanaBank Championship (pictured), she was presented with what looked more like one of Heath Robinson's cast-offs. A wine chiller with a couple of oars from a primitive tribal canoe sticking out of it? You decide. At least it will be able to row itself to safety when she tosses it into the sea.
FAIR PLAY TO A GOLDEN OLDIE
Certain pictures can leave an entranced, slack-jawed nation staring on with mouths agape like a whale homing in on a shoal of tightly-packed krill. Gary Player being snapped in the scuddy was certainly one of them.
A season on the golfing circuit can produce many weird and wonderful sights, but the image of a 78-year-old man in the buff has remained seared on the mangled minds of those who have witnessed some of this Royal & Ancient game's most traumatising spectacles . . . yes, even those who have glimpsed the ghastly visions that emerge from the communal showers during the Association of Golf Writers' autumn meeting.
Captured on camera for ESPN magazine's Body issue, Player, poised in athletic endeavour and holding up an oversize golf ba', recreated the heroic role of the earth-balancing Atlas. Only a tactically positioned bent knee prevents the viewer getting a keek at the shortest club in the bag, but you've got to take your hat off to the Black Knight for baring it all.
For those whose skin doesn't fit their body anymore and has the texture of a crocodile's knee that's been soaked in vinegar, Player's daily routine of 1000 push-ups and a diet consisting of various elixirs, twigs and soil is a lesson in healthy living to us all. We now look forward to Monty getting his kit off in 28 years' time . . .
THE MINERS' WELFARE AWARD FOR THE PITS OF DESPAIR
There are numerous times on a golf course when we simply want the ground to open up and swallow us whole. In this correspondent's grim experiences, the wish for such a spontaneous seismic shift tends to happen around the trembling takeaway of the putter on the practice green.
Mark Mihal, a 43-year-old mortgage broker, had to wait until the 14th hole of his round at the Annbriar club in Illinois for an erosion of earth to happen. "I was standing in the middle of the fairway, then all of a sudden, I was underground," recalled Mihal after plunging 18-feet down a sinkhole.
Mihal, who dislocated his shoulder in the plummet, was rescued by his playing partner, who clambered into the hole, tied a rope around his waist and heaved him out . . . probably just to sternly inform him that "it's still your turn and you'll have to take a drop".
In this teasing, tormenting game, Mihal, like the rest of us, will no doubt be back for more in 2014. Happy New Year, folks.