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Three young men waited for the club secretary’s selection of a fourth player to join them in the Wednesday Club Competition.

“Meet Roger Forsythe, he’s looking to join some young blood.” A smiling club secretary greeted them. Roger’s face lit up as he faced the group. “Love playing with young blood; won many a prize because of that strategy.” Watching the three young faces it was not difficult to see their disappointment. Who could blame them? Roger was in his late sixty’s and overweight. When he spoke there was a chesty whiffle to his apparent laboured breathing.

They pulled names out of a hat to select their teammate and after some discussion on handicaps they made their way down to the carts. Jason and Cuen, two of the team, who now became a twosome against Roger and James were selecting clubs a little way from the tee. “Providing he doesn’t drop dead on us, the old man is easy meat, so we need to stack up the bets.” Cuen smiled as he spoke in hushed tones to Jason. “Why not?” replied Jason.

On the first tee a measure of discussion took place on what the three considered friendly betting on the two teams. “Count me out on the bets, I’m happy enough to collect a prize.” Roger appealed in his wheezy tone. No one argued that one and they tossed a coin for first team out.

The young men were big hitters using drivers with bulbous heads; they were clearly in the 200 yard plus league, Roger on the other hand, trailed them in the  late 170’s. But in many respects the three were erratic. The young men’s shots were long, yes, and dry fairways with short brown grass, gave extra run to their strokes. Yet, probably one in five of these big hits took advantage of the favorable fairway conditions, as four out of the rest were either ‘hooked’ or ‘sliced’ and as a result the three spent a large portion of their game off the fairway in the rough. The fairway benefit was all Roger’s as his shots followed the fairway and rarely came anywhere near the rough. One might have said that Roger was consistent.

What was also consistent about Roger was his ever wheezing whiffle. He appeared to be struggling to breathe by the time he reached the greens. Fortunately for him he either landed on the green with his chip shots, or on shorter holes with his shot off the tee. Clearly though, Roger’s downfall was his putting. Often he landed within a few feet of the pin and then missed the hole by an inch or so when putting. Strangely, Roger never seem to be upset with his putting weakness. After a miss, he could continue a few practice swings, smile, and move on.

After the ninth hole the four moved to the clubhouse for some refreshment. It was hot and the young men did quick justice to a couple of beers each and a packet of fresh fries. Roger settled for tea. Jason remarked, “Roger, are you sure you up to another nine holes, sounds like your lungs were struggling over the last nine.” “I’m good; usually improve, both breathing and game on the second nine.” Roger smiled reassuringly. The three laughed, not taking Roger seriously.

“In that case Roger, join us in the betting; we usually sweeten the stakes on the back nine.” James said merrily. “Thanks James, but no thanks. You guys are hot-shots and all under par at the moment, it seems.” Roger responded defensively. “Think of it Roger, you have one of the hot-shots, as you call us, on your side, what can you lose,” persisted James.

Cuen joined the discussion, “Look Rog, I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll give you ten to one odds; on individual play, if one of us wins it costs you one Rand, you win, you get ten. On the team event you stand a winning chance for the team prize; after all, you and James both playing well.”

Roger finally relented and agreed to Cuen’s offer.

They teed off the tenth and all were happy with their arrangements. As the game continued it became apparent that Roger’s whiffle had eased off considerably and his putting became more accurate.

By the fourteenth hole things were looking a little gloomy for Cuen and Jason with Roger toting up a mean score. As a team, James and Roger were doing well, thanks largely to Roger’s improved playing. When an opportunity presented itself and the two were near each other, Jason muttered to Cuen, “The old dog has come to life, we’d better pull ourselves towards ourselves, or this could be an expensive game. In fact Cuen, after this game, I shall be weary of your judgement.” “Stop whining Jason, you agreed to the arrangement didn’t you?

As the game continued, tempers were flaring with Cuen and Jason. The angrier they became, the worse they played. James managed to keep his cool, probably because he partnered Roger.

They walked off the nineteenth and into the clubhouse.

Sitting at the pub were three unhappy young men, shelling out wads of notes. Roger opted to shower and so the three sat bemoaning their loses at the bar, without Roger’s presence. “Well the old whiffler sure skinned us.” Moaned Jason. “Ag, he just had a stroke of luck on the back nine,” commented Cuen. “Well, be honest, he did warn us that his breathing and game improved on the last nine and we went and agreed to a ten to one bet!”

Just then club secretary approached, “Fine bunch you three are, I had my money on you – Roger did not look so well today, so I took a chance on you guys.” “We’ve lost a packet!” Jason spat. “You and I both, seems Roger will be collecting a stash today, especially from the caddies,” the secretary went on. The caddies?” questioned James. “Yip, about twelve of them backed you.” There was a fair amount of cussing from the three, but eventually, Cuen began to laugh and the rest followed suit.

The secretary, caught his breath, “Our Roger is a hectic gambler, here every Wednesday to collect his stash, never misses.

 Roger collected a packet full of notes and contentedly filled his pockets, after buying a round. “You are one sly old ba****ed Roger,” Cuen laughed, you sure took us!” “Night’s not over yet.” Quipped Roger.

Roger did not go home empty handed. Pockets stuffed with notes, he and James were runners up in best team of the day award and to boot Roger was awarded, “Most Improved Player.”

Opening his front door, Roger’s wife called, “Perfect timing, dinner will be served shortly.” He opened a bottle of bubbly and the two sat down to a scrumptious roast.

They chatted and after dinner went through to the living room, where a large table held Roger’s spoils.

Rosie, Roger’s wife sat down and not unalike a Father Christmas, Roger gave out their prizes. “For my wife Rosie: the runner up award for the best team of the day, a beautiful duvet cover, with matching pillow cases for our bed; next, an envelope containing one thousand Rand, a gift from those who thought they bet against a whiffley old man. For myself, a two hundred Rand voucher from the pro-shop for the most improved player of the week!”

Rosie beamed, “My man always bags the goose!”

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