It would be unfair to blame it on the crocodile. This, I thought, was definitely the strangest technique of any player, in any sport, in the history of the universe.
And I thought what I had seen back in Monaco a few years earlier would never be surpassed. On that occasion I was playing doubles tennis and one of the players was rather uncoordinated, a bit like a Mr Bean with fleas. Nevertheless, he loved to try to put lots of spin on his shots. So when he hit the ball he would flick his racquet from very near the ground to above his shoulder. At the same time, he was kind enough to shout a friendly warning, “Top spin!” which in his heavy Austrian accent, was more amusing than alarming. Hitting the ball like that though, he would often do mis-hits, which would sometimes send a ball flying over a fence. But on that occasion it wasn’t the ball that misbehaved. As my mate yelled out “top spin!” his racquet came loose from his hand and went rotating high in the air, seemingly flying like a helicopter. There was a moment of panic for all of us, as we watched this out-of-control rotor as it chopped up the sky. Fortunately though, there were no injuries because the racquet came safely to rest in a neighbouring garden. Technically that garden was in France, not Monaco, so my mate is surely the only person ever to accidentally launch and land a tennis racquet into another country.
On this occasion though, I was playing golf in the northern part of Australia with two Aussie mates, Tim and Will, and the friendly warning was from the guy at the golf shop. “Just be careful out there today, cobbers [friends]. We think there might be a salty [croc] in one of the billabongs [pool of water]”. That worried us as we went out on the course. It was remote and quiet, and no one else was around. “Struth! Was he fair dinkum?” [Is it the truth!? Was he serious?]. It worried us enough that we made a plan: whenever we had to retrieve a ball from near any water we would form a human chain linked with golf clubs. The instant any hungry 20-foot reptile jumped out we could yank ourselves to safety. As if!
Will is actually a very good golfer and the plan that day was for him to give Tim and me some tips. I hit off first and the ball went a fairly short distance into some long bushes. Will was then immediately able to summarise my talents. “Ricko, you’ve only got three things wrong: your stance, your grip, and your swing.” Then after a little moment he added dryly, “But that’s really all there is in golf.” Thanks mate.
Tim was up next and what I saw will stick in my mind forever. He first readied himself about 6 feet from the ball and started doing practice swings. They were not high swings; only his arms and the club moved while the rest of his body stayed completely still. And there was no pausing; he just kept going like an upside down windscreen wiper. It was like he was sweeping a broom in both directions. This was already rather odd but what followed set a new benchmark in bizarreness. He started walked forward, but, wait for it, he didn’t stop swinging! Tim was now a moving pendulum, like a walking elephant. After a few steps he reached the ball and somehow, somehow, made contact. It was not a big hit, but it was fairly straight.
The rest of the day’s golf was pretty similar. Will played well, I played poorly, and Tim elephant-trunked his way around the course. I tried to lift my game, but by the end of the round I scored worse than even Tim, who really couldn’t care less. It made me think that sometimes rather than being mundane, its better to be different and to take your chances. Just not with the crocodiles. Thankfully we never saw one.