NME goes green! Yes, this week our man with the handicap TIM SOUTHWELL challenges LLOYD ‘Forever In Check Trews’ COLE to sink a few – and then play some golf! Missing links: MARTYN GOODACRE

One of the oldest tales in showbiz is that Lloyd Cole plays’ golf. People have made careers by humiliating the man because he prefers a leisurely round at Wentworth to a discobiscuit frenzy at Kinky Disco.

Well, if you don’t know already, golf is the most difficult but, if played properly, the most majestic game invented, a severe test of mental and physical co-ordination. It’s hell down there. Ask Bernhard Langer. Last month he faced a putt of five feet to save the Ryder Cup, the golfing equivalent of the World Cup. Like Stuart Pearce/Chris Waddle before him, the moment slipped away and his life will never he quite the same again.
Today’s match sees the clash of yesterday’s men. Lloyd Cole used to play off a six handicap and I used to play of a 12. Those days are long gone but as we head towards Cottesmore Golf & country club in Sussex, both of us are in confident mood.

Down on the first tee we limber up. The first tee holds terrifying significance. If you duff your drive here the whole clubhouse falls about laughing and your trousers invariably fall down. A good drive is essential. Lloyd’s falls into a load of gorse some 210 yards down the left. Mine is slightly shorter but down the middle. We stumble onto the green with equal clumsiness but I hole a ten foot putt to take the hole with a bogey six.

An unmemorable start is followed by Lloyd pushing his tee shot at the 135-yard par three second into the trees. Lloyd disappears into the undergrowth with the kind of look that could kill a greenkeeper at 40 yards. All you can bear is the rustle of leaves and all you can see are his feet as he unceremoniously hacks the ball out into a greenside bunker. The NME are three up after three holes and all the earlier talk of him giving me a few shots has turned full circle. “So, I’m supposed to give you shots, eh?” cringes Lloyd.

Time to warm things up a bit here. We don’t want to fall out, after all it’s only a game. So just how did you get into golf then,

“I didn’t have much choice really, he laughs. “My mum and dad moved to a golf course so it was just there. I started playing with my brother add some mates at school when I was 13. I had a six handicap then which was pretty good. Right now I don’t mind how I do so long as I stroke the ball well. If 1 can just keep that going for a few years then I’ll retire and give myself five years to make it on the US Senior Your. They get paid almost as much as the regular tour y’know.”

With Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Arnold Palmer on the Senior Tour, Lloyd Cole will he in esteemed company if he ever pulls it off. It’s certainly a hell of an ambition. Right now he’s got a six foot putt to win the fourth. I use all my powers of telepathy to keep the ball out but still it falls gently into the hole. Lloyd looks up just in time to see my grimacing face turn to angelic sweetness.

The sixth could he crucial. A short par four (310 yards), it appears simple at first glance but Lloyd, who’s played the course before, tells me about the lake which awaits an over-hit tee shot down the hill. For safety, he hits a six iron which spirals off dangerously into the trees down the right. Again Lloyd looks ruffled. My six iron is perfect, straight out of the meat and straight down the middle. “That’s absolutely perfect.” enthuses Lloyd, “you’ll just have a pitching wedge to the green from there.”

We stroll down the fairway together. Around With Aliss style, surrounded by the glories of the countryside. Nature is all around, birds sing. The sun shines and my ball sits up proudly in the middle of the fairway some 200 yards ahead.
Talk inevitably turns to the Ryder Cup and the sad loss of the trophy to the Americans. I suggest that the American celebrations were as gratuitous a display of patriotism as I’d seen in quite a while, all that whoopin’ and a hollerin’…

“Y’know,” considers Lloyd, “it’s easy to find fault in the way the Americans celebrated because they do it so unstylishly. When you see one of our guys, Seve Ballesteros for instance, running about and psyching everybody up you think what a wonderful man, but when they do it they look like wretched idiots,

“You could see how the pressure got to people. Lanny Wadkins(USA)is just about the hardest man in golf and there he was crying his eyes out, the event had torn him apart. The one thing that was good was to see those ridiculously well-paid golfers being put under the most pressure they’ve ever handled and not getting paid a cent for it’

Meanwhile, this game needs sorting out and Lloyd finds his ball in serious trouble, taking two to get out from the rough. The shot in, front of me is ominously simple. A pitching wedge lofted high over the lake, hitting the green with two feet of backspin rolling to within three feet. Except 1 didn’t have a pitching wedge, having lost it a year ago. Rather than ask to borrow Lloyd’s 1 did what every self respecting mid-handicap golfer does – I panicked, took out the sand iron and hoped for the best.
And that’s when it started to go horribly wrong. Concentration broken, the NME lost four holes in rapid succession and by the time we came down the 15th we were two down and in desperate trouble.

LLOYD is now playing inspired golf, hitting the ball like Seve on a good day. NME needs to win the 312 yard 16th to stay in the match. Both our drives are centre fairway but my approach shot catches the top lip of the greenside bunker. Another inch to the left and it would have been stone dead. Lloyd finds the green and that’s it. Cole has defeated us by three and two. Despite his dismal start the popster stitched us up like a kipper. Ah well, it’s only a game after all.

Publication: New Musical Express

Publication date: 01/11/1991