Let‚??s start with the introduction, for that is a good place to start. ¬†I‚??m Bart (De Vries) and I‚??m here to help these two madmen through the last 3 months of this epic odyssey they‚??re on. ¬†My duties will be numerous and varied ‚?? manager, physio, spiritual guru, chef, speech coach and of course friend. ¬†There may be others. ¬†
I‚??ve just flown 34 hours from Auckland via Singapore, to Heathrow. ¬†From there I had instructions to get to Birmingham New train station, the boys being scheduled to play at nearby The Belfry. ¬†Or so I thought. ¬†As seems to happen from time to time (i.e. day to day) with this mercurial twosome, plans changed. ¬†They had their dates out by one, so it was on to Wallasey for your truly (wherever that is?). ¬†Right. ¬†So I ask the ticket guy for a ticket to Wallasey station and he looks at me blankly (‚??Sorry son there is no such station‚?Ě). ¬†Oh good. ¬†Well, using a bit of initiative ‚?? I have bags of that ‚?? I just board a train to Liverpool, knowing that‚??s roughly where I‚??m supposed to be. ¬†Then I go through the same process, this time with two ticket guys (the first one was a muppet and didn‚??t even know his own name). ¬†Hey presto! ¬†At last I find myself on an auld banger of a train, en route to Wallasey station. ¬†
Problem is, I haven‚??t the slightest of clues how to get from the station to the golf course. ¬†As fate would have it, I overhear some punter on his mobile to his wife, and he mentions he‚??s getting off at Wallasey. ¬†An opportunity, me thinks. ¬†With no qualms I approach this fella and in my Sunday Best pronouncement (I‚??m dazed and confused by this stage, after probably 40 hours of travel), enquire of him ‚??where, good sir, is Wallasey GC?‚?Ě ¬†Hardly understood a word he said. ¬†The part I did catch was about a church; that if I headed for the spire I was more or less there. ¬†The Gods intervened and a magnificent spire revealed itself, darting up into the grey Mersey sky. ¬†(How cool are the red brick chimneys everywhere, by the way? - not a hint of gib anywhere to be seen). ¬†And then, finally, I was at my destination. ¬†What a mission!
By now I‚??m running on pure adrenalyn. ¬†And coffee. ¬†Without hesitation I burst into the clubhouse and introduce myself. ¬†‚??Bart De Vries, manager, puregolf2010 ‚?? where are my boys?‚?Ě ¬†Ha! ¬†The first of my instructions are to change out of my jeans into something more respectable! ¬†If I‚??m to be allowed into the clubhouse lounge or on the course, that is. ¬†Which of course is somewhat necessary. ¬†I‚??m led up the stairs past pictures and photos of people apparently centuries ago. ¬†So much history. ¬†(This is where Frank Stableford played, the inventor of the Stableford system). ¬†The wood of the lockers must be older than New Zealand itself; wood that looks tired of seeing naked old men get changed! ¬†Then I‚??m ready for action.
I burst out onto the course ‚?? the first proper links I‚??ve ever seen, what a sight! ‚?? and lo and behold, spot my partners in crime on the 3rd. ¬†To creep or not to creep? ¬†Bugger it ‚?? I sprint straight for Jamie, who‚??s lining up his approach. ¬†He doesn‚??t hear me, but the ITV camera crew that‚??s out filming them turn to me in amazement. ¬†What‚??s this punter up to? ¬†I bee line at Jamie ‚?? who still hasn‚??t heard me coming ‚?? and with a steady hand give him the biggest slap on the posterior you‚??ve ever seen! ¬†He didn‚??t know what hit him. ¬†Nick and Charlie his playing partners didn‚??t seem too amused at first. ¬†Then we embraced romantically, high fived and generally laughed around for a minute or two. ¬†And then there were three.
The golf, of course, had to go on, despite all the excitement. ¬†I soon got to know Charlie (who the boys have been staying with ‚?? hilarious Scot) and Nick (host for the day ‚?? very nice guy too). ¬†When we stood on the 4th tee you could see right across the bay and out to a massive wind farm perched atop the grey water. ¬†Under the grey sky. ¬†I was struck by how gloomy it is here! ¬†Soon though the sun came out and I came a little more back to life. ¬†Twilight zone stuff. ¬†I saw some awesome holes, and even played a few myself. ¬†What a gorgeous golf course ‚?? it‚??s whetted my appetite for links, a new world for me. ¬†
Standing on the 18th tee looking back towards that church and the clubhouse in front I got goose bumps. ¬†The round had flown by as something of a blur, but I remember standing there on 18 thinking ‚??this is very cool.‚?Ě ¬†Nick graciously shouted us a refreshment on the deck overlooking 18 green afterwards. ¬†We also met a couple of his pals, who as friendly as friendly can be (Les, I think one of them was called). ¬†Right away I knew this was going to be some three months. ¬†
Then we retreated to Base Camp Charlie, where I met his lovely wife Vera. ¬†Vera cooked us a sumptuous three course meal and even gave us all haircuts in the morning before we left! ¬†Despite being knackered beyond belief I had an awesome evening sitting around with Charlie and Vera and the boys, talking about all sorts. ¬†Eventually the boys insisted I have a drop of this stuff called Kummel as a nightcap, which Charlie had on the sideboard. ¬†They‚??d led me to believe it was some kind of poison that knocked you out as soon as you ingested it; that I was in for a treat. ¬†In truth I found it very agreeable ‚?? an aniseed-like flavour, and I was still conscious after 30 seconds! ¬†Then I faded quickly... ¬†
It was incredible getting an insight into the kind of experiences the lads are having. ¬†In Nick at Wallasey, and Charlie and Vera back in their home, they were spending time with three amazing people who interacted with Jamie and Michael as if they‚??d been friends for years. ¬†Getting to play at a place like Wallasey was obviously a real privilege too. ¬†Huge thank you to the aforementioned for including me in your day ‚?? I know I was a bit of a zombie, but I had a smoking time. ¬†It‚??s going to be a pure three months...
Bart ¬† ¬† ¬†
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