The couple living in the third-floor flat below my fourth-floor flat in Du Cane Court often came to complain to my parents about the noise I made. They had no children, but they were massive golf enthusiasts (and with hearing like bats as far as I was concerned). One day, rather than listen to me re-enact the Cassius Clay/Henry Cooper 1966 fight, they invited me to go, with them, to the driving range at Addiscombe.
I loved it and was hooked.
During the summer holidays my friends and I would walk to Balham Station and get the Tube to Morden (several of my fellow-travellers believed, once we exited the station, we’d fall off the end of the world. After several trips, there was more chance of being invited to drive a trolley-bus down Balham High Road) to play the championship course which was Morden Pitch ‘n’ Putt.
Whenever I visit other golf clubs and am asked to enter my club’s name, I still write “Morden Pitch and Putt GC” – probably one of many reasons I’ve never been invited to be a member of the R&A.
Having bought a putter and a sleeve of Dunlop 65 balls from Balham Woolworth’s, I practiced for hours in my bedroom.
In between pulling down the big, old houses on Balham Park Road and erecting the new houses, thus creating Hunter Close, there lay a building site. This was, for a very brief period, to be our Augusta.
As a teenager, and having mastered my putting rather than doing my geography homework and having bought a selection of second-hand clubs from the second-hand shop on Balham High Road near the Duke of Devonshire (I think it may have been called Décor), we were all set for the Balham Masters.
We played one Thursday evening and, even though I say so myself, hit the ball quite well. It wasn’t until the following day, that the Police informed me of exactly how well I’d hit it. Unbeknownst to me I’d smashed one of the windows of one of the Du Cane Court flats; equally ignominiously, the window belonged to one of Du Cane Court’s minor celebrities: Harry Leader.
Harry Leader was the front man of the highly originally-named band Harry Leader and his Band. He had appeared on the radio and briefly, as he’d discovered Matt Monro, in the popular weekly TV programme This is your life. This fateful evening I had a local bobby tell me: “This is your golf ball!”
Our cause wasn’t helped as the Police refused to believe the answer “choir practice” to the question, “Where have you been this evening?” and then, as all of us thought we were heading for a ten-stretch at Albany High Security Prison (we were only 16 and horribly naïve) they found a book one of my fellow-golfers had purloined: Boys and Sex. Because the book was confiscated, many of us within the group didn’t discover masturbation until well into our twenties. (Luckily my eyesight was already dreadful and this possibly ensured its arresting).
I still play golf, but have this dread, whenever playing at a course where you’re playing near a clubhouse, that, if I were to break another window, the Sweeney will arrive before you can say “get your trousers on – you’re nicked”. FORE!!!!