CALL IT what you will: It could be “The mysterious case of the missing golf clubs”, or, “How Preston nearly lost his beloved putter,” or then again, “Another exciting episode of Firethorn drama!” Stranger than fiction, you might even say.
Let’s try and explain. Recently, long-standing Randpark member Preston Rodger was playing in a senior competition on Firethorn when the group he was in reached the par-4 11th hole. Preston parked his Motocaddy alongside the tee. In his bag were his set of clubs, including the old Bulls Eye Acushnet putter which he loves so much. Bulls Eye putters, as an aside, were first made in the United States in the 1940s and became extremely popular with both amateurs and professionals across the world. In fact, Johnny Miller used an Acushnet Bulls Eye on his way to a record 63 in the final round of the 1973 US Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, which he won, taking only 29 putts in the round. It has often been described as the greatest round in Major golf history.
So the Bulls Eye is a classic. With its brass head and beautiful balance it has a lovely feel to it and with Preston’s own fine touch around the greens, club and man have formed a deadly combination over many years. “I inherited the putter from my dad way back in 1977 and he’d had it for a long time too. It must be over 70 years old and, yes, it’s served me well and I’ll never part with it,” he says. Well, as you will find out, he nearly did part with it.
Okay, back to the 11th tee at Firethorn. Preston takes up the story. “We all drive off and I walk off the tee to what I think is my bag, because it looks like my bag, only to discover it belongs to one of the guys behind us. “ (The other player had parked his similar-looking bag there while his group putted out on the 10th green.)
Then Preston’s playing partner Geoff du Plessis, after hitting a screamer down the middle, says he had seen Preston’s Motocaddy slowly making its way along the path that runs parallel to the fairway with the club’s storage dam on the right. “But I was pretty sure it would stop after 25 metres because that’s when most of them do, so I didn’t think about it anymore.”
Well, what followed constituted the uncanny riddle behind this story because the Motocaddy and clubs simply could not be found. It was as if they had disappeared into thin air. Looking for a lost ball is bad enough, but when it’s the full Monty of clubs and bag and trolley, things get really serious. Totally weird in fact. Uncanny. Eventually, however, a full 75 metres from the tee-box, no more than a top of a driver is, by chance, spotted in the dam – like you might see a person’s hand extended out of the water in a desperate, last-gasp effort by that person to be saved from drowning. Clearly, it seemed, subject to confirmation, the clubs had ended up at the bottom of the dam.
“I don’t know how it happened but the go-switch on the Motocaddy had been playing up and I think maybe the wind switched it on and off it went. How it never hit a brick or a boulder or a bump and came to a stop I’ll never know,” Preston now recalls.
In any event, now that the clubs had seemingly been located, Thabo Ubisi “Ghost” was cajoled, in exchange for a R200 reward, to jump in and, hopefully, retrieve the clubs. A rope was tied to him to ensure his safety and, happily, in he went and, happily, out he came with Motocaddy, bag, Preston’s precious putter and all but one of the clubs intact.
“I did lose a gap wedge and repairs to the Motocaddy and the battery and clutch ended up costing me R4 000 but, hey, I did get my putter back! I guess I was lucky. My wallet and car keys were in the bag too but they also came out the water soaked but otherwise unscathed, and the miracle was that my car started with those keys,” says Preston who had to abandon his round, and by this stage had attracted an intrigued gathering of Randpark staff members in golf carts who had driven to the scene of the rescue operation to witness what was going on.
“Look, you never want something like this to happen but, on reflection, there was a funny side to it and at one stage we all fell about laughing,” says Preston with a smile. “I’ll put it down to yet another exciting episode on Firethorn!”
Absolutely. You never do know what’s in store in this wonderful game.
By Grant Winter