It was in anyone’s language, not a large gathering of the usual suspects, consisting as it did of Big Chris, the Demented Irish Miner, the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer and the Incomprehensible Scot.
But then it was one of those hot, airless Highveld afternoons when the attention tends to wander and terminal lethargy becomes an ever more attractive option. This became almost immediately apparent as the quartet settled to watch the first of the new season’s co-sanctioned Sunshine and European tour events at Leopard Creek, an idyllic golfing layout carved out of the bush on the banks of the Crocodile River which divides the on-course eagles from the off-course elephant herds across the stretch of water in the Kruger National Park.
The focus though was on a young South African player, son of a widely admired retired Sunshine Tour professional but at 23, basically still learning his craft although he is already the reigning SA Open champion.
Of the four spectators, the Demented One and the Incomprehensible One, were undoubted the more accomplished players, Big Chris the most enthusiastic while the Arithmetically-challenged One, a self-appointed oracle on all matters of a sporting nature, talked by far the best game. Predictably though, it was the Demented One, who hit the first high, curling hook into the deep rough. “Do we have to watch this?” he asked. “Isn’t there something more exciting, like mud wrestling or Aussie Rules?”
The remaining trio paid him scant notice, fully aware of the Demented One’s propensity to blur whatever barriers there are in the chaos theory. “Tha yunsta can pley goff,” remarked the Incomprehensible One, a man who understands the vagaries of a game foisted on a largely unwilling world by the Scots, something he fully understands from the time he first played the game’s holy of holies, the Old Course at St Andrews and, despite a solid single-figure handicap failed to break 100 and lost “a duzin goff balls”.
But be that as it may – though the Demented One kept up a parallel running commentary that had little or nothing to do with the collected, cerebral battle being waged by Brandon Stone in the Alfred Dunhill Championship. Starting with a three-shot lead over Charl Schwartzel, a fourtime winner at Leopard Creek where the 2011 US Masters champion launched his stellar career with a play-off victory in 2004, Stone stoically kept his cool.
“Tha’s greet thinkin’,” said the Incomprehensible One, pre-empting any magisterially-toned analysis by the Arithmetically-challenged member and effectively silencing the Miner. “Tha laddie wull win thus.” And so it proved as Stone played determinedly on as Schwartzel – level with the leader after six holes – Keith Horne, Chris Hanson, Benjamin Herbert and David Drysdale all headed south on the leaderboard, and the eventual winner calmly racked up a 67 for a seven-shot victory.
“Tha Stone will tek a few titles,” predicted the Incomprehensible One as the triumphant son, still soaked from a greenside champagne drenching, embraced his proud father Kevin. The rest of the foursome could only nod agreement for at that emotional moment it looked very much like indeed he would.