There is a brief ray of hope for anyone who has ever hacked his way around a golf course, although the somewhat comforting veil of the system invented by dentist Dr Frank Stableford, manages to hide some of the more embarrassing golfing inadequacies, allowing a player to pick up his ball and ring the hole where no points are likely.
Medal play, where every shot taken must be recorded, is a different thing entirely – as Mississippi professional Clifton McDonald discovered as the least fortunate of the 9 485 players aiming at qualifying for the US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin in June.
McDonald created something of a record by carding 127 strokes over 18 unsuccessful holes at Silver Lakes Golf Course in Alabama, starting his round with a double bogey and then progressively getting worse, going out in 68 before improving somewhat to a 59 over the back nine.
But, as heart-rending as the scorecard undoubtedly was for McDonald’s dreams of the lofty dreams espoused in that remarkable golf movie Tin Cup, he remains no match for Maurice Flitcroft, a man the Daily Telegraph described as a “chain-smoking shipyard crane-operator from Barrow-in-Furness whose persistent attempts to gatecrash the British Open golf championship produced a sense of humour failure among members of the golfing establishment”.
Flitcroft’s target was the British Open and, unable to enter the qualifying rounds as an amateur – he had no official handicap, nor was likely to earn one – he simply declared himself a professional and put his name down for the preliminary weeding out of the hopefuls for the 1976 Open – despite his previous experience amounting only to some hacking around on playing fields near his home.
“I was looking to find fame and fortune but only achieved one of the two,” said Flitcroft as he duly carded a 49-over-par 121.
The disgruntled officials promptly changed the rules.
But an unrepentant Flitcroft, armed with only half a set of mail-order clubs, continued to enter under pseudonyms such as Gene Paceky, Gerald Hoppy, and James Beau Jolley. McDonald will go away and think again.
But surely for sheer perseverance alone, no matter how far he eventually climbs in his chose profession, he can never match the man named Maurice Flitcroft.