So another Open is over and Padraig can sup from the Claret Jug for another year. We can all look forward to September and the Ryder Cup and the one of the most fiercely fought competitions in the golfing world. For many, this the battle of all battles, intensely fought with blood being shed live on television for all to see, to cheer and anguish at both the short game and the long, for wherever and whom ever your allegiance lies.
For a few others there is a competition much more savage, more barbaric than the battle which will be fought at Valhalla. This battle goes on week after week, with battles won and battles lost on the parkland and links, on courses spread right across the country.
Each conflict is a chapter in history, a page in a book, a scene in a movie and a day in the continuing struggle to be a better golfer than your identical twin brother.
This particular battle started on September 2nd 1958, Kevin started the way he was to continue, at the front of the queue, and me following up the rear. I was twenty minutes behind him and have spent the rest of my life trying to catch him up.
As we left school our time was spent playing local football and Kevin was much sought after as a striker. I played between the sticks initially, and then became a striker myself with some success, but I could never fill Kevin’s boots and seemed always in his shadow. A move across to local cricket proved the same. Classifying myself as an “Ian Botham”, even to the point of having the back of my hair permed. I could turn my arm over, bat a bit and keep wicket more than adequately. Kevin though, could turn a match with his batting, taking the bowlers on and scoring runs so quickly even I was impressed.
So to golf.
I joined Tenterden Golf Club on the back of a holiday in America with Kevin and his wife. I managed the finances so astutely, that I managed to come home with the joining fee in my hands and ready to play. Looking back I think this is how I first got the reputation for being tight with my money. Kevin, ever quick to exploit a situation, never missed an opportunity in telling everyone that I never spent a penny while on holiday and this reputation is still well known in the clubhouse. I finally realised that Kevin always diverted the attention to me, to hide the fact that it was him that never actually brought a drink.
A few years later Kevin joined. In a very weak moment, one that I have forever lived to regret, I put pen to paper to support his application for membership. What was I thinking?
My playing partner at the time, Jonny Campbell, even bumped into Kevin in the car park. Kevin didn’t know Johnny from Eve and promptly ignored him. Johnny spent the next few weeks ignoring me until I told him that he must have met Kevin by mistake.
Over the years everyone would get us muddled up. A fact that I find difficult to accept because I always describe Kev as “the fat ugly one”.
For the last ten years we have been at war on the Golf Course. I started as the lower handicap and have had to watch agonisingly as he seemed to get better and I seem to get worse.
I recall another holiday when playing golf near St Just in Cornwall, when we nearly came to blows in the car park over a pound bet for the longest drive on the 18th. Nobody mentioned that it had to be on the fairway so I claimed I won and Kevin lost his rag and would not accept defeat.
One of the greatest successes, of which there are few, was to achieve every golfers dream, a hole in one. For golfers everywhere this is the pinnacle of your golfing life. A shot that you will never forget, a better day than your marriage or even watching the birth of your first child. For me it was even greater.
I managed my hole in one while playing with Kevin. A beautiful 8 iron to the 164 yard 7th, with a slight draw and a perfect length. Nothing, even sex, which in itself is a rare occurrence, has come close to giving me more satisfaction than that shot. My satisfaction was short lived however, when I found Kevin showing his mates in the clubhouse, the hole-in one board bearing the name K. Steele and claiming it was him.
2006 was Kevin’s year. The Tenterden Open was followed by the Club Handicap Championship and all I could do was look on with envy as he basked in the glory and willing accepted the £20 bet at the end of the year, which we had traditionally waged on who finished with the lowest handicap. The handing over of the cash was done in front of the Sunday Swindle crowd who took great pleasure in seeing me hand over the money.
Last year I took on a new approach. Kevin has never had an interest in clothes, always borrowing a suit from me for a wedding or a funeral. I knew I could out dress him on the course and score a victory; at this stage I was desperate for any sort of success.
On the day of the Club Championship I exposed my self to the other members clad entirely in pink, even down to the socks. One of my playing partners got a pink ball from the pro and I proceeded to put two good rounds together with the pink ball and grasped the Handicap Championship. I had managed to turn one victory into two and for a brief moment I actually believed I was a better golfer than him.
This year however Kevin won the Tenterden Open again and I now recognise my rightful place. Kevin is playing off a 10 handicap and me struggling to play of 14. I have not given up though. Golf is a funny game with ebbs and flows and I know my time will come. I will be taking a new approach next year. I have some things up my sleeve and if necessary will resort to cheating. After all, all things are equal in love and war, and after all Kevin is only family.