David Parkin on being a perfect sporting specimen

TWO red kites, a kestrel, some Canada geese and several baby squirrels.

They were the highlights of a round of golf played yesterday – which I think sums up the quality of my shots.

Fortunately my team mates at the Business Beats Cancer Yorkshire Golf Day at Rudding Park, Harrogate, were much more capable and gave us a fighting chance of a decent score.

What should I expect when I hadn’t done more than a couple of trips to the driving range in the last two years?

I had to fight my way to the back of the garage to find my dust-enshrouded golf clubs and the sponge handle of my golf trolley looked like it had a serious case of mildew.

But who cares when the sun is shining and you can meet and mingle with friends and business contacts and raise money for a very good cause.

I was joined by Shaun Watts of Hull-based office design and fit-out business Chameleon Business Interiors who I have written about here before.

Also on the team was Jas Athwal, a sport-loving entrepreneur from Bradford who is a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

Jas is a member of Hawksworth Golf Club in Bradford where he became the UK’s first Sikh golf club captain and has organised the annual UK Asian Open golf competition which has raised a great deal of money for a range of charities.

A golf enthusiast and community campaigner, Jas takes particular pride in a community programme he initiated which takes golf to young children in inner-city schools.

A keen rugby league player with Bradford Northern’s Academy team back in the 1970s, when racism on the pitch was rife, he sees sport as “the ultimate leveller” – where barriers such as race and class don’t matter.

It’s a message that he wants to give to today’s young people – whether in sport or in business: believe in yourself, work hard, help others where you can, and you’ll get there on your own merit.

It was great to spend some time with Jas having only previously briefly met him at a couple of business events.

Completing our team was former professional golfer Carl Robinson.

Yes, my secret weapon.

A former trainee golf pro at Moortown, Carl played on the PGA Tour, moved abroad to work in Germany and Switzerland and was the 2005 Swiss PGA Champion.

Carl now works in recruitment but still plays off scratch.

While I warmed up with a bacon sandwich and a coffee sitting in the sunshine outside the Rudding club house, Carl was on the driving range practicing for the round ahead.

On the nearest the pin hole his shot hit the flag and was just centimetres away from where the eventual winner’s ball had landed.

On the final hole, which had the longest drive competition, Carl, grabbed his driver, waved it like a rapier, strode up to the tee and declared: “I’m leaving nothing out here on this course.”

Compared to my approach, where I was wondering how quickly I could get my aching body back to the clubhouse for a pint.

He finished the round three under, Jas helped him add plenty of points to the card and Shaun, who plays golf as infrequently as me, ended the round with a birdie thanks to a bit of coaching from Carl.

I made a couple of cameo appearances on the scoresheet.

Nevertheless it was a thoroughly enjoyable day for a good cause and lovely to catch-up with familiar and new faces.

It was good to see entrepreneurial and sporting siblings Martin and Graeme Allison, Sunderland’s answer to the Brownlee brothers.

The last few times I’ve seen Chris Cormack and his colleagues from Enact, the SME fund of private equity firm Endless, was on a computer screen when I hosted a virtual event for their investors in May.

Chris lives in the Peak District and I was able to tell him the fascinating fact that the picturesque village of Hathersage in the Hope Valley has recently been voted the UK’s number one ‘Hidden Gem’ place to visit.

And I only know that because my old school mate Simon Hare, a BBC journalist, covered the story on Look North the other evening.

Simon is a golfer and has invited me to join him for a round at a club in the Derbyshire village where we grew up.

But having seen how he athletically strode up the rocky Peak District terrain like a sinewy mountain goat to deliver his TV report, I think I better get back to the driving range before I accept his invitation.

:::

WHAT a difference two days makes.

Having enjoyed an evening at Headingley watching Yorkshire Vikings beat Worcestershire Rapids with a big-hitting display in the Vitality Blast, two nights later I was in Leicester to see the team tamely beaten by Leicestershire Foxes.

But I wasn’t there for the cricket, more to see old friends and meet a few new ones.

I was invited by Huddersfield entrepreneur Andy Needham, who runs Approved Foods.

He had taken a box at Leicestershire County Cricket Club, where former Huddersfield Town commercial director Sean Jarvis is now chief executive and already looks to be upping the club’s commercial game.

Unfortunately a few days before the match Andy had to pull out and isolate at home after testing positive for Covid-19 despite having had both vaccination jabs.

He was quite ill for a few days but is now recovering well, but it robbed us of his company.

His daughters Alex and Poppy, who both work in the business, stepped in to host the box where guests included Coronation Street actor Colson Smith and his father Nick.

Nick has a management role within the NHS but started his career as a nurse and he told me that the most rewarding experience he has had in many years has been returning to the frontline to administer Covid vaccinations.

And as he is a Leeds United fan, the fact that he has been doing this at the vaccination centre at Elland Road is the icing on what is an already very good cake.

Our party also included old friends I used to see at Huddersfield Town matches – and on a memorable skiing trip to Austria – Jason Taylor, Richard Chambers and Dave Weston.

Since I last saw Jason he has become a father for the first time and has taken up a new role with a charity which I know he will excel at given his enthusiasm and contacts book.

We were staying in the Marriott Hotel where fellow guests included the England A rugby team and head coach Eddie Jones.

Given Jason loves a selfie with a celebrity (I’ve allowed him to take several with me over the years) he was quite excited by this unexpected opportunity.

A few drinks with good friends at a sporting event followed by a curry.

It is a simple enough evening.

But I didn’t realise how much I had missed something like this.

:::

SCROLLING through the TV news channels the other day, I came upon a travel programme on CNN called ‘Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy’.

The show is based on a simple premise: acclaimed Hollywood actor Stanley Tucci travels around Italy visiting its 20 regions and sampling local dishes and meeting food enthusiasts who guide him through the complexities of Italian cuisine.

Yes, I know what you are thinking.

It has all been done before by a gaggle of celebrities and well known chefs.

That is exactly what I thought.

But I watched it all the same because Tucci is a natty dresser and I thought I might learn a new way to tie a scarf rather nonchalantly.

By the end of the hour-long first episode, in which Tucci travelled to Naples, I was hooked.

Not only do I want to revisit Naples, which didn’t particularly impress me on a day trip when staying in Sorrento a couple of years ago, but I will avidly watch every episode of this CNN show.

What made this better and more impressive than the countless other travel and food programmes that I studiously avoid on television?

It was the host.

Tucci, an Italian speaker, actually listens to the people he meets.

The show might bear his name, but it isn’t all about him.

The real stars are Italian food, the people that make it and their surroundings – whether that be lush Tuscan hillsides or Neopolitan cobbled streets.

In this world of shouty “me, me, me” social media, “influencers” and would-be celebrities, what a lovely luxury it is to watch someone who has earned the right to be centre stage but is happy to play a bit part because he actually understands who the real stars of the show are.

I thought I might start visiting kebab shops and doing my own little travelogue.

But my university graduate godson tells me someone has already got there first.

Apparently a bloke called Danny, originally from Barnsley who now lives in Leeds, produces YouTube videos of his visits to various takeaways and cafes where he consumes vast platefuls of grub.

And his films can get up to one million views.

I’m not sure my sophisticated approach as a gastronomer would cut it.

But I have been an oenophile for years.

And it’s not just the way I walk.

Have a great weekend.

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