The annual Parrot's trip to Portugal is a tradition which is now in it's twentieth year. Originally only 4 of us, most years we have 8 players.
However, this year, an unprecedented 12 players boarded the Saturday 7am Monarch flight to Portugal.
This well established routine involves meeting at my house at 3.45, minibus to the airport, 3 hour flight, car hire, check in to the apartments, and straight on to the golf course.
For most of us it means missing an entire nights sleep!
Laguna IS what it says on the tin, but we used to score quite well there. It is home to one of the most difficult index 13 holes you might ever play in your life. A par five which may involve 3 separate shots over water into the prevaling wind to a Mckenzie green! Glorious sunshine greeted us as we assembled on the first tee in varying degrees of tiredness.
For those of us who played in Portugal last year, we decided then that the handicaps we ended the week on would be carried forward to the start of this years tour, meaning, in all cases, a higher handicap to our Society handicap. As usual, handicap secretary Glenn Wellard was the biggest beneficiary. His Society handicap of 6 being replaced by his Portuguese handicap of 10. This was a liitle tough on the New Boys, but we knew they would soon be reclaiming shots of their very own !
Scoring wasn't too bad with 4 players scoring 30 or more. Davey Bamber eventually winning by 3 clear strokes, with 34, from the ever- consistent, short but straight Mossy.
With the exception of Moyley, who blobbed the last 4 holes, and disappeared to his pit for the next 18 hours, the rest of us had our evening meal, and hit Lizzie's Karaoke Bar. All tiredness was forgotten, as we entered the bar and Glenn( previously very anti Karaoke ), immediately grabbed the microphone and gave us his version of Walk of Life by Dire Straits. For the rest of the evening we hogged the stage with Glenn singing every alternate song. Paul Greenaway tested Lizzies back catalogue, by asking for some Frank Sinatra classic from the 1930's, which, to her credit she managed to find, unfortunately Paul didn't realise you had to sing the words as they were highlighted , not 2 seconds later !
Other notable performances included my version of Losing my Religion, and Mossy's version of My Way , which he gave from his bar stool looking like Buddah. However the Karaoke highlights were provided by Marky T and Martin. Marky T the baby of the party, at 45, was mad for it, and sang a number of songs the rest of us had never heard of which involved strange dancing and weird, wild arm movements which were to have serious consequences for the young pup later in the week.
Martin, who can sing, made the worst choice ever giving us his version of the Jam's Beat Surrender. Me and Mossy were in serious danger of dying from a heart attack we were laughing so much. Most of us were home by 3 a. m. leaving only the hardened drinkers clustered round the bar.
Before we came most of us were of the opinion that Phil Matthews would be missing his ever- present mate T. J. so much he would be on the plane home within 2 days, but Phil soon found 2 new friends whose company he enjoyed throughout the week. Namely Mr Sagres, and Mr Superbok, who along with their little nephew, Tommy Tequila provided the perfect antidote to Phil's loneliness.
Pinhal is a forest of trees with a few clearings where they have put 18 golf holes. Accuracy is everything here. So guess what happened ? The least accurate player on tour won by a country mile !! If you played with Richard for the first time, you would be amazed by how far he hits the ball, but usually it's how far left or how far right. Today it all clicked into place. His driving was monumental and it was straight leading to a massive, and very rarely seen in Portugal, 40 points. Excellent golf. New boy Marky T finished in second with a very creditable 36 points, and in third was a rejuvenated Moyley with 31 points. Martin carded his second consecutive 30 to finish fourth. The other new boys continued to struggle.
For the evening I had set the lads a quiz. For those of you who don't know, the idea of a quiz is that the questionmaster (me, in this case) asks the teams a question, and they write down the answer on a piece of paper. My first question was " What is the best selling car ever manufactured? " Unfortunately the lads were unable to grasp this complicated format, and after 24 ' clarification' questions ( mainly from Marky Rhodes team! ), and 15 minutes we were able to move on to question 2. I realised it was going to be a long night, and my 60 questions were eventually completed in 2 and a half hours.
Some golfing tours promise good weather, other golfing tours just deliver it. For the third consecutive day we were bathed in sunshine as we teed off at Millenium. This is one of the newer courses in Vilamoura ( i'm not sure when it opened !), and our tour usually finds it the easiest to score on. So it proved again with 8 players scoring 29 or more. The 3 newbys who hadn't performed well so far, all improved considerably. John scoring 27, Paul 28 and Phil 32 to put him in joint third place. Paul and John formed an immediate bond from day 1, and were soon inseperable, and I can lay to rest any rumours that the amiable John was employed to act as 79 year old Pauls carer. However they did room together, and we were all confident John reminded Paul to put on clean underwear each day! Winner for the second time in 3 days, and by a clear 5 points, was the in-form Davey B with 38 points, Martin was second with 33, and joint third with Phil were Mossy and Glenn.
The evening's 'entertainment' was provided by Martin in the form of another quiz. Martin's quiz was a written one, and he handed sheets out to the 3 teams. It was quite difficult, made even more difficult by the fact he missed out certain relavent key words from the questions !! In the fourth and final round, seeing his mate Glenn's team was in last place, he randomly decided to make the last question of the night worth 4 points to give his mate a chance of winning. Despite being on space travel( his favourite), Glenn was unable to overhaul the other 2 teams and he and his team finished in a deserved last place.
We last played Salgados about 15 years ago, and it has gone down in Parrot's history as the hardest golf course we have ever played. Davey B remembers it particularly well having lost a mammoth 17 golf balls last time round ! It is basically a large lake with the odd strip of land above water on which there are placed 18 golf holes.
There are only 2 types of player who can win here. The first would show grit, determination, resolution, concentration, and unflappability, allied with great length and straightness off the tee, pinpoint accuracy to the greens, and nerves of steel whilst putting. I showed all of those qualities in abundance ( apart from the last, of course ), to record a scarcely believable 37 points, including a 2 over par (3 x 3 putts), 23 point back 9. What type of player could compete with , never mind beat, that you may well ask? Well there is only one, and we've all been a victim at one time or another to ....." a bloke with a high handicap!" In this case it was Geoffrey Moyle, and, all joking aside, every credit to Geoffrey who had a fantastic 40 points.
He started the back 9 with 14 points in 4 holes to himself record a 24 point back 9. Sleeping giant (metaphorically), Mark Rhodes awoke to finish third with 34, newby Marky T. fourth wih 31, and, veteran, Paul Greenaway fifth with his best score so far of 30 points. Glenn had the day off to go train-spotting or something, which could prove very costly to him in the final overall standings.
Unfortunately Tuesday night is football night, and as I walked into the pub, still licking my wounds, I thought I had walked into a nursing home by mistake. 10 of my colleagues were sat in a row, mouths agape, staring at the T.V. screen where 22 men were running about kicking a football. "Ten?" you may well ask. "Who was missing?"I'm not allowed to say, but what I can tell you is that football means so much more to one of our number that he can only watch it in solitude. Go figure! Now, if any of you ever have need to visit a nursing home, I can give you one piece of advice learnt through bitter experience. Do not , under any circumstances,move a table! I had the temerity to move one 3 inches, and this sent the residents into a frenzy.. I'm not sure why, but I can honestly say that I have never received so much abuse in my life !!
This was also what turned out to be our last night of Karaoke. Lizzie's Bar had never heard anything like me and Mossy doing our version of The Bay City Rollers finest hit, Shang-A-Lang,and we had to repeat our performance later due to public demand. In between Marky T performed some more obscure records complete with his weird and wonderful dance moves. He should really stick to the classics. We're not sure whether Lizzie binned the Karaoke because me and Mossy couldn't be bettered, or because she was sick of listening to Marky T's nonsense.
Up to now the courses had been difficult, but they were only to become harder from hereon in ! The Professionals play Victoria every year on the European Tour, and the scores indicate it's one of the easiest courses they play.
Strangely, for the lads on tour, it is one of the hardest. I came fourth, after blobbing the last 2 holes, but still achieving my best score ever at Victoria with 29 points. One ahead of me was Martin, with his third score of exactly 30. In second place with 33 was Glenn, who achieved his best ever gross score anywhere in 10 years of golf in Portugal with an excellent 85. Clear winner with 35 points was Marky Rhodes, who had shown signs of retuning to form the previous day, despite being trounced by me and Moyley. This was an excellent score on a tough course where the wind had started to blow. Sad news of the day was the withdrawal of Marky T with an injured arm. He says it was done on the golf course, but we all know it was done by his crazy dance moves in Lizzie's !
Wednesday night was poker night, and we all convened in Grogan's Irish Bar. Some played poker, and some watched footy. We hadn't been in Grogan's for years due to some long-forgotten dispute with a gay chef, but the lads were happy because the menu consisted of cheap English type food. The poker went the way you might expect. Marky Rhodes only played in one of the two games, thereby saving himself 10 Euros, and Marky T learnt the hard way that being ranked in the top 100 at The Bay Horse is no guarantee to success when you mix it with the big boys.
However Marky T got his revenge on 3 of us when he dragged us off to the deserted Lizzie's Bar for " one last drink". He was still injured and therefore not worried about the 8 a. m. departure for Faldo the next morning, as he was not playing. I was the first to leave after FIVE more last drinks, just as the lads were ordering the Jagerbombs, and arrived home about 2.30 a.m. Phil got a taxi the 100 yards home about an hour later, as he couldn't remember where he was staying, leaving only Mossy with Marky T.
Despite being one of Thornton's finest purveyors of meat, Mossy was always easily led astray. He met the lovely Helen about 2 years ago, and after a course of Butchers Obedience Classes ( easier than canine ones because Butchers don't have the same learning aptitude), he is a reformed character. However on this occasion Marky T kept him out until an hour before he had to get up again!! How on earth would we fare on the golf course tomorrow??
Last year we played the Faldo twice. I won both times, barely having to leave second gear.
This year my score was lower than the number of pints Phil had yesterday. Obviously, the way Phil drinks, this could still be a good score, but unfortunately, on this occasion, he only had 16 pints before turning to the shorts.
My score of 15 was the lowest score of the week, by anyone anywhere, and exactly matched my achievement of the year before at Victoria. The winds were up on this high, open course and scoring was difficult for everyone on what, even on a still day is a difficult track to play. Mossy, amazingly, managed to score on every hole for a good 25 points. Even more amazingly Phil finished in joint second place with Glenn, each scoring 27. Two points ahead of them, and, achieving his third win of the week, was Dave Bamber. I have to say I played with Dave at Faldo, and his outward score of 19 points, in very difficult conditions, has to be the best 9 holes played by anyone all week!
This was not a boozy night. We assembled in Grogan's for a cheap meal, and our third quiz of the week. This one compiled by Geoffrey Moyle. The quiz had to be delayed whilst the lads watched yet another football match. You don't know how BORING these people are !!! Even Mossy couldn't face another football match, and retired to bed at 8. Anyway after the Johnson's Paint Trophy Northern Final ( A Micky Mouse competition for Micky Mouse teams) had finished Geoffrey's quiz commenced. The result was such a one-sided affair it doesn't merit a mention.
Amongst the regular members, The Old Course is generally thought to be the best course we play. It calls for big- hitting, flair and imagination. What an anti-climax to the week for the day to be won by " short and straight." Geoffrey Moss first, Geoffrey Moyle second!
What a great advertisement for the sport of golf, as Mossy nurdled his way to 36 points, closely followed by Moyley, who nudged his way to 35 points ! In reality, two excellent scores, lads, on a very tricky course. Well done to the two Geoffreys. In joint third with 34 were Paul who, at age 79, achieved his best score at the end of a gruelling week, and Richard who, if he had scored a bogey 5 at the last, would not only have won the day, but would have been clear winner of the eclectic competition we had been running all week.
The last night is traditionally Presentation Night. Martin was not allowed to present the winning prizes, as the previous year he appeared to hand them out in a totally random manner, not understanding that they were meant to be for people who had actually won something! I was also barred, because I take too long, so Dave made the final speech. In third place overall was Martin, beating Mossy on countback...best 5 rounds total 155. In second, with a massive 15 point betterment on the final day to jump from seventh place was Moyley...best 5 total 157.Deserved winner on 162 was Dave Bamber, who won 3 days, never had a score below 27, and easily played the best golf of the week. Richard and Geoffrey Moyle shared the Eclectic. Each scoring 53 points.
Well, all that remains to be said, is that I hope the Newby's had a good week, I know the rest of us did. They were all excellent tourists, and I hope they will all be back next year, although it will be slightly embarrassing for, young pup, Marky T to tell people he is going on holiday with an 80 year old!
I intend to book the outings for the new season in the imminent future, and will inform you all in due course.
Looking forward to next year already.
Minibus breaks down on the way home