The morning of the ‘Wee Joe Mo’ was unusual as it was probably the first real sunny day we had had in weeks. Let me put you in the picture. Wee Joe Smith is and was the reason I picked up a Slazenger 10-iron and took such a divot it looked like a Celtic scarf. From that first terrible shot, I was hooked. Wee Joe was my brother-in-law’s dad and although I had caddied for the B-I-L in my younger days it was his old man who convinced me to give god’s game a real go with a full set of clubs, and not the collection of cast-offs I had accumulated in my Ben Hogan golf bag, which I am sure must have been made by Tupperware. I remember getting a paper cut from the strap as I slung it onto my shoulder and almost lost a finger. Those were the days when teeing up with a new Tour Edition ball brought you out in a cold sweat.
Like any 18-year-old boy cash was only to be used for going out and trying to get back home again, so having a golf gear addict like Wee Joe saved me a small fortune, but gained some ridicule amongst my football-playing mates. Wee Joe was old school. He hoarded everything golf related and added to his collection almost monthly. If you needed a putter, he had it, golf balls…he had hundreds. You name it he probably had three of them and each and every one was immaculately cared for, washed and stored. I remember fondly my Mizuno 1 ½ wood (aka my first driver). I thought it was enormous but in fact it was only a fraction bigger than my Slazenger B51 ball. I played at the same course as Wee Joe until he died suddenly five years ago. His death was a reason I left and joined another club. I must admit I cried like never before as I had lost a dear friend but mostly because my brother-in-law had lost his hero. Watching Joe talk about his dad at the funeral was the bravest thing I have ever seen.
So almost five years on and we (Joe, Billy, Lindsay, Jamie and myself) were playing the third ‘Joe Smith Memorial’ (we call it the Wee Joe Mo) played by friends and family. The winner in 2006 was his son-in-law Billy who pipped me at the first extra-hole when I eh …cough…. ahum …. four-putted. I restored some credibility when I won the title last year, and was also the undefeated long-drive champion.
So to the 2008 competition played at Colville Park in Motherwell and there were five guys all desperate to lift the trophy. I was lucky to win nearest-the-pin at the 4th and Billy played safe on the longest-drive when testosterone lost out to a dainty dink on the 8th. At the turn Billy and myself were tied for the lead and the pack were close behind. Then on the 11th, and after a wayward drive, I tried chopping out of some thick rough, well okay, deep undergrowth and injured my hand. I was effectively just a marker from then on. Billy had been rock steady all the way round and Lindsay lost the plot after spending 20 minutes looking for his ball on the 12th. I actually asked him if he would have spent as much time looking for his wife had he lost her, I can’t print his answer. We got back to the clubhouse and after a recount Billy had retained the title by three points. Champagne (Asti is all the clubhouse had in stock) filled the trophy and the reminiscing began and continued late into the night. It was a fitting end to a competition dedicated to a man who, when asked by the voice on his mobile phone to enter his 16-digit number on his first top-up card, stood in the middle of Asda shouting 3, 5, 2, 8, 8, 9, 0, 6, 4……into the handset. Wee Joe and technology never seemed to go hand-in-hand. I remember when he changed from a pull trolley onto his first electric trolley he had the boot of his car customised so it was secured to the boot liner so it wouldn’t start up. I think he was a little bit scared of it.
I am sure that every club up and down the land has a Joe Smith. Someone who liked things to be done his way, someone so set in his daily routine that wild horses wouldn’t have stopped him playing his round of golf with the same three grumpy old men. He took such good care of his equipment and was always willing to help with advice on how he kept it looking good. He was always willing to delve into his vault to pull out the wand that would make your drives longer and straighter, the putter that would shave shots off your card or the wedge that completed your artillery. I remember fondly when I did lose the tip of my finger the Wee man customised a new golf glove so it would fit my shortened digit.
Some younger golfers look at the older fraternity with disdain and resentment because they can’t get round the course in less than 4 hours, they only ever play 8 holes or they only drive the ball 150 yards, but I know a clubhouse full of men and family who would love one last round with ‘Wee Joe’. I would like to say to those younger members, ‘You don’t realise what you have got until its gone !!!’
Our Wee Joe is deeply missed on the first tee and is remembered by many a golfer. Next year will be here soon enough and we will be a year older and heavier but Wee Joe’s size-7 golf shoes have left eternal spike marks on the hearts of the lads who want to win the most coveted trophy in our golfing calendar – The Wee Joe Mo.
To Joe:Someone who was genuine, honest, trusted and overwhelmingly loved. Gone but never forgotten.