How apt that we should pay a visit while in the Surrey ‚??hood to The New Zealand Club. ¬†An illustrious and quite brilliant club it is too, if I may say so. ¬†It gets better: the Secretary upon hearing of our impending visit shoulder tapped a recent visitor to the club, to ask whether he‚??d be free to make up a four. ¬†He graciously accepted. ¬†His name is Sean Fitzpatrick. ¬†And he‚??s a living legend.
With a membership scroll of six score or so (give or take), TNZC is a very small, discreet and private club. ¬†I‚??m not going to tell you just yet where the name comes from, because we were teased on the day and I‚??m going to afford you the same frustration. ¬†The first explanation I received from the Secretary was that the front nine taken as a whole forms the shape of the North Island, and the back nine of the South. ¬†Of course that was fallacious but I was gullible enough in the moment to swallow such a plausible explanation wholeheartedly. ¬†Fool.
‚??Fresh‚?Ě after a few minutes sleep ‚?? after jetting in from Amsterdam the night before ‚?? we awoke once more at DC‚??s place in Radlett. ¬†DC was in Hong Kong but his wife Jill and son Tommy looked after us handsomely for the brief duration of our (second) stay. ¬†The return leg of The Amsterdam Mission had gone smoothly until the last hurdle, when we were directed by a BR staffer to the wrong train which didn‚??t stop at our station. ¬†A cold 25 minute wait at Westhampstead wasn‚??t ideal but it could‚??ve been worse. ¬†Anyway we awoke back on English soil and set sail for a slice of home. ¬†Well, sort of.
Changing his boots in the car park by his big black Mercedes was our man (‚??call me Fitzy boys‚?Ě). ¬†Taller than I expected. ¬†Instantly endearing human being too. ¬†It‚??s amazing how Kiwi you become when after months on end away from Aotearoa you run into a true blue Kiwi ‚?? an All Black captain, no less ‚?? with a thuck Aughkland acceent. ¬†By Jove it was cold. ¬†As in, Baltic. ¬†The frost lying atop the ground was as thick as a Bible printed single-side 1UP. ¬†Which is how it‚??d be printed (in colour too) at Bell Gully, where paper and ink live in unimaginable abundance. ¬†Yes you, David Coull. ¬†
Around the bend, by the clubhouse, were our host ‚?? the charming Rupert Beaumont ‚?? and the Good Secretary, Roger. ¬†Standing freezing their testicles off (like men, granted). ¬†Pleasantries exchanged; quickly into the sheds. ¬†One of my favourite of the year, I‚??d like to say up front. ¬†Genuinely a relic of another age, when men were men and frosts were frosts. ¬†Each locker bears several crossed out names of tenants gone by; there‚??s an open fire in the bar and the lounge that looks like it hasn‚??t been sat in since the Titanic left Belfast (in perfect working order, no less, the Nor‚??n Irish will tell you); and there are more black Labradors walking around than people. ¬†Oozing charm and hospitality.
We had coffee while Jack began his retreat. ¬†At this point we talked around and around the inevitable question as to the club‚??s Nu Zillin Connection, but inevitably in smoke and mirrors fashion got nowhere. ¬†I began to wonder whether Rupert and Roger were of MI6 pedigree. ¬†They certainly cultivated an air of mystery. ¬†Fitzy played dumb too (I‚??m positive he knew). ¬†
Then, much to our surprise, we were led to the 1st tee while there was still 8 feet of frost lying. ¬†Crunch, crunch, crunch. ¬†Any other golf club in the world would‚??ve suspended play until Jack was no longer anywhere to be seen. ¬†Not at New Zealand. ¬†With frostbite attacking all 10 digits we made gestures resembling golf swings (perhaps not) and kicked off the light hearted satire that would be the Order Of Play. ¬†My partner Fitzy got stuck a little into the opposition right away and, more so, into me his partner! ¬†So I gave it back in Spades. ¬†It‚??s a miracle we were all still talking by the end. ¬†A few pep talks along the way (from The Skipper) steadied the ship intermittently. ¬†All good fun.
Rupert was a senior partner at a boutique firm called Slaughter & May for many years, and seems to have had a wonderfully challenging career in the law. ¬†It‚??s always great to hear someone wax lyrical about how fulfilling their working life has been ‚?? particularly 1. When it‚??s been a demanding one; and 2. When their career‚??s one you‚??ve already tried and...well...! ¬†Rupert‚??s admission that he only took up golf in recent years because he was always too busy to even consider it while working rang a familiar bell. ¬†Everyone strikes their own balance.
Fitzy spoke openly and frankly about his experiences: rugby and post-rugby (both equally interesting, I found). ¬†He and his wife now have a hospitality business and the big man also gives some of his time to motivational speaking, which obviously comes fairly natural. ¬†He casts a commanding shadow does our Sean. ¬†And hits a good ball too ‚?? absolutely burgling off a 12. ¬†Apparently Zinny‚??s not a bad marksman with a golf club too.
The course itself is a delight. ¬†That cow Heather makes another appearance and can, like grass, be found on every hole. ¬†Because trees also play an integral part in creating the atmosphere, it was a good while before the frost lifted. ¬†By the 9th blood was beginning to circulate through our vessels once more. ¬†A whisky coffee at the drinks cart might‚??ve helped. ¬†Rupert much to my astonishment opted for Bovril with a dash of sherry. ¬†Possibly the most disgusting drink I can imagine. ¬†I wouldn‚??t have dared friends in even the most senseless of games to take so much as a mouthful of this heathen tonic. ¬†But Rupert liked it, as did Bart (who was in his element caddying for Fitzy).
Goldy and Rupert (who together sound like a tap dancing or figure skating duo) won. ¬†There, I said it. ¬†Despite Fitzy‚??s fine play on the front nine we were pipped on the 17th. ¬†I did nothing all day save for make up the numbers. ¬†On one tee, SF: ‚??I‚??m just waiting for you to do something Jamie‚?Ě. ¬†He wasn‚??t joking either. ¬†And so commenced a pep talk.
Something amusing happened in the locker room that I‚??m compelled to share with you. ¬†Full disclosure and all that. ¬†We were stripping down readying ourselves for a wash. ¬†Bart and I were last undressed. ¬†Bart turns to me and whispers, ‚??Can you believe we‚??re about to shower with Sean Fitzpatrick?!‚?Ě. ¬†I nearly cried with laughter. ¬†Bart‚??s now known as GB; I‚??m sure you can guess what the ‚??G‚?Ě stands for...
We were treated to one of the most fantastical lunches ever consumed. ¬†Even the Romans would‚??ve been envious of this symphony of fine fare. ¬†Our six sat smack bang in the middle of the empty dining room and were served silver spoon style by the very capable wait staff who‚??d probably see less customers in a given week than a curry stand at Venice Beach. ¬†Like Augusta, the members here get a sweet deal on wine, which is procured by the Secretary (I can‚??t give away his methods or I‚??ll be shot) - what an honour! ¬†We had a belter of a Beaujolais. ¬†It really was the full nine yards. ¬†I remember sitting there thinking, ‚??Where did it all go wrong?‚?Ě ¬†The quality of the grub and refreshments was only matched by that of the company. ¬†A few hours that I‚??ll look back on fondly for many years to come (touch wood). ¬†¬†¬†¬†
Oh, the story behind the name? ¬†The New Zealand Club? ¬†You‚??ll just have to wait a bit longer...there‚??s not enough mystery these days...
A sincere thank you to Rupert, Roger and Fitzy for making our day at The New Zealand Club one to remember, for a number reasons. ¬†Fitzy: if we ever play together again, I promise I hope that you‚??ll play better.
JP ¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
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