Today, a morning of nostalgia. A reminder of times past. A strong sense of deja vu. For the first time in around twenty years, I played golf at Grange Park Golf Club in St Helens – aka my former second home.
In my youth – as a junior member of the club – I spent every spare minute possible on the course, on the practice ground, chipping green and putting green – and occasionally sneaking into the snooker room for a quick frame when no-one was looking. Putting comps until the light went so dark you couldn’t see each other let alone the hole; another top five after 36 holes in the school holidays; lunches of soup and sandwiches after the Thursday junior medal; hitting balls over the tenth fairway to the bunker or from the bunker down to the small tree; throwing the balls up to agree the four balls for the day – the hardest fought competitions of the year.
From the age of twelve through to my late teens, I spent more time at Grange Park than anywhere but my home, school and college. It helped that my college was just a flick with a sand wedge away! It was the site of my happiest teenage moments; the biggest laughs I had growing up; the scene of some of the memories that remain the most vivid now, more than a score years later. It is also the place where I learnt so much about people and their motivations – not always from the best role models – and the place where I met some friends who remain hugely important in my life today.
It will always hold a special place in my heart and although I had been away nearly half of my life it was comforting and familiar to be back. Saplings have become imposing trees, but – aside from the odd presentational change – it was like I had never been away. As I walked the course it all came flooding back, as did the smiles of yesterday; Joe Cohen falling through the chair; Ken Glover pulling his hamstring; PJB thinning over it out of bounds on the ninth; Camel being hit in the unmentionables whilst hitting balls; Rob, Ste, Marc, Morgs, Waz, Dan and I writing in that suggestion book to pass time on a wet and windy day. I also heard the echoes of proud moments, especially watching Greg hole for eagle at 15 en route to the Rosebowl – shot Kenny.
A trip down memory lane can bring with it melancholy – not today. Just the reminder of great days past and the hope of great days to come. Walking the fairways with one of my oldest friends – one of my partners in crime from those old days – made the whole thing even more special. A trip down memory lane but with it a commitment to make it back very soon – not twenty years; more like twenty days.