David Parkin finds the Masters in the doldrums

I DON’T know about you, but watching the Masters golf just wasn’t the same this year.

And you don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to work out why.

Holding it in November rather than the traditional slot in early April meant we couldn’t feast our eyes on the flaming azaleas and other blooming delights that line the fairways of the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

My Dad always used to say he felt spring had arrived when the Masters was on the telly.

I have to admit I missed the spectators at the tournament as well.

While dimwits in shorts and baseball caps bellowing: “Get in the hole!” is rather tiresome, there is nothing like the collective sound made by a crowd of people watching a brilliant golf shot bounce onto the green or ping gently into the cup.

I quickly worked out that it wasn’t just the autumn setting and lack of spectators that was detracting from one of the great annual sporting occasions.

Dustin Johnson’s masterful march to the title left the tournament more of a procession than a competition, but that wasn’t really the problem either.

It was Sky TV’s uninspiring coverage.

They may have been hamstrung with the feed from the US host broadcaster but it wasn’t so much the pictures I was bothered about.

The lack of a regular leaderboard being shown was bizarre while the charisma-less commentators and presenters sounded like they were going through the motions, not talking about one of the blue riband events in world sport.

OK, you could argue that Butch Harmon and others weren’t on the course but commentating on TV images they were viewing from their homes.

Yet that never stopped the great Peter Alliss from conjuring up some glorious commentary while sitting in the back of a caravan somewhere in the car park.

I read last week that Lee Elder, the first black man to play at the Masters, will be an honorary starter for the 2021 tournament.

The 86-year-old, who first played at Augusta in 1975, will join Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus to hit the opening shots of the 85th Masters next April.

It is a nice gesture but a well overdue one by a club long known as being a bastion of white male privilege.

Apparently when Elder played in 1975 he had to rent two houses during the tournament and moved between them because of fears for his safety.

I’ve never been to the Masters, but I remember the late David Jones, the former chief executive and later chairman of retail chain Next, speaking at a business dinner at the Queens Hotel in Leeds.

He told the audience that there were a couple of things that made him different from everyone in the audience.

Clearly, there was the Parkinson’s Disease he had suffered with for many years, but he also said he had a concentration level of about 30 seconds.

“And I’m probably the only person here to have played the Augusta National golf course…twice.”

The audience nodded in agreement.

He then told the story of his experience, when invited to play the great course along with the chairman of Next, Lord Wolfson.

Their American hosts met them at the first tee where they all had buggies waiting and four black caddies were standing alongside them.

David Jones said he shook hands with his caddie, who was called Leon.

He said: “Right Leon, put the clubs on the buggy, you can drive.”

Leon replied: “No sir, I have to walk.”

“Ok Leon, put the clubs on the buggy and I’ll drive.”

“No sir, I carry the clubs!” responded Leon.

So they set off down the first hole and, during a break in play, David Jones chatted to Leon about his family and his wife’s job working the night shift at a supermarket.

By the time he reached the first green his hosts had politely but firmly told him that it was not done to talk to the caddies.

He said he played badly but that wasn’t the reason he didn’t enjoy the rest of the round.

With another round lined up with the same hosts the following day, he and David Wolfson enjoyed dinner at the club that evening and asked a member if they allowed female members at Augusta.

“Yes we do allow lady members,” came the answer, “but there aren’t any.”

Back on the first tee again the following morning, the golf carts were lined up and so were the same four caddies.

The host invited his two British guests to wager “$500 a corner” on the match.

They accepted the invitation but Jones said he almost immediately regretted it when his first drive was poor.

As he gazed forlornly at his ball, he was joined by Leon who simply said: “Seven wood.”

“Pardon?” replied Jones.

“I know exactly how you play, I’ll guide you round this golf course.”

Leon proceeded to tell him what club to use, where to aim for and how to line up his putts for the entire round and the British guests triumphed three holes up with two to play with the American hosts stumping up $500 each.

As they made their way off the course David Jones handed his entire winnings to Leon and thanked him for his superb coaching.

Leon simply smiled and said: “We sure stuffed them, man!”


FAREWELL then Des O’Connor.

The butt of scores of Morecambe and Wise jokes had the last laugh: he was a favourite British entertainer for over 60 years with a primetime TV show and even made the leap across the Atlantic to achieve success in America.

What was clear was that there was a huge degree of affection between Eric and Ernie and Des stretching back to the time they had performed together on variety shows in the early 1950s.

It was said he even wrote some of the insults about himself that they liberally sprinkled through their act for four decades.

There is a great clip of Des appearing as a guest on a chat show in which David Frost was interviewing Morecambe and Wise.

He began by pretending not to speak to Eric, presented them with his latest record, which they smashed and then Eric admitted they were great friends.

“I mean, he came to my daughter’s wedding…he wasn’t invited, but he turned up anyway.”

Des O’Connor (I always thought that would be a stage name he adopted, like many of the post war entertainers, but he was born Desmond Bernard O’Connor in the East End of London in 1932) then told a story of the time when he had heard the news of Eric’s heart attack in 1968.

He was on stage in Paignton and paused his act to ask the audience, if they believed in such things, to pray for Eric Morecambe.

When Eric was later told that Des O’Connor had asked his entire audience to pray for him, he replied: “Those six or seven people might have made all the difference.”


HERE’S one for you.

Do you know where the word ‘doldrums’ originates from?

I didn’t until this week when I heard an interview with Alex Thomson, the British sailor currently leading the Vendée Globe solo round the world yacht race.

The event that many sailors call “the Everest of the Seas” began on November 8 and will take around three months to complete.

It takes self-isolation to a new level, but is certainly one way of escaping the misery of Covid-19 restrictions.

Anyway, Thomson, who is the favourite to win the race and is bidding to set a new record time in sailing the 21,600 mile route, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he was heading towards the doldrums.

Now I know the term is used to describe ”a state or period of stagnation or depression” but what I didn’t realise is that the doldrums originates from a popular nautical term that refers to the belt around the Earth near the equator where sailing ships sometimes get stuck on windless waters but can also be struck by violent squalls.

Thomson knows that despite the challenges thrown at him, he’ll be out of the doldrums in a matter of days as he heads toward the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa.

The rest of us are going to be in the doldrums for a bit longer.

But hopefully not too much longer.


I’VE previously highlighted the BBC’s painful efforts to make itself trendy and appealing to a younger audience.

I’m not sure how much traction its Match of the Day spin-off MOTDx gets with the ‘yoof’ crowd but I’d hazard a guess that sticking former player Jermaine Jenas in a bomber jacket and getting him to adopt some street slang doesn’t really cut it.

I accidently flicked channels on to last night’s episode and thought, rather than seeing a right-on football show aimed at today’s ‘woke’ generation, I’d tuned into something that echoed the heyday of lads mag Nuts.

There on screen was Leeds United’s in-house TV presenter Emma Jones taking penalties wearing a very tight vest and spray-on jeggings.

Judging by the results she wasn’t appearing because of her Patrick Bamford-like finishing skills.

If you haven’t come across Miss Jones before I include a photograph below to enable you to appraise the situation.

Suffice to say that the last time I was at Elland Road and she was appearing on the TV screens that line the concourse bars, the fans watching all looked just like the gentleman below.

Have a great weekend.

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