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Getting in the swing to launch my Mail column.

Byline: FAIRWAY FOCUS PETER SHARKEY

PREPARING to write a new golf column is a bit like standing on the first tee in a Saturday morning club medal.

There's invariably a gathering of other golfers watching your swing as they noisily replenish their bags with essential provisions and mark golf balls with initials or three red dots in readiness for their respective rounds.

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Practise swings completed, you address the ball and suddenly the murmuring stops - everyone's attention switches to your attempt to launch a Titleist 250 yards down the fairway "Did you see where it landed?" you enquire of your playing partners.

"A bit right, but it's not in the trees," is a standard reply to my disappointingly regular question. "At least I got it away," you mutter to yourself, thanking the Almighty in the same breath.

As is the case in any other sport, golfers start their game full of hope, optimism, even a smattering of joie de vivre - especially if their opening strike dissects the fairway. And so it is with a new golf column.

Of course, I've been practising before arriving here. For the past six months, I've been charting my progress in the Mail's sister paper, the Birmingham Post, as I prepared to play in the Farm Foods British Par3 Championship at Nailcote Hall.

Standing on the first tee in that competition was nerve-racking to say the least.

Amateur golfers are not normally afforded the opportunity to play with established professionals in front of a paying audience and Sky Sports TV cameras.

When I started the Post golf column, the sports editor jokingly suggested we should call it 'The Road to Humiliation'.

I recalled that remark the other week in Warwickshire as I kept praying to hit the opening shot straight and long.

Thankfully, my ball did as it was told.

So here we are on the equivalent of the Birmingham Mail's first tee.

An 18-handicap golfer - keen, sporty, capable of striking the ball well one minute and duffing a 20-yard chip the next; a bit like almost everyone else, really.

Though I don't hail from the Midlands, I've always enjoyed playing golf here (actually, there are very few places I don't appreciate a game), so like any round, this column starts laden with hope, optimism and an intention to concentrate primarily on the amateur game across the region.

This will entail playing at different Midlands courses and sharing my experiences with readers: what was the welcome like, how are the greens? Are the changing facilities up to scratch? Then there are local and regional competitions: let's speak with the winners and publicise excellent performances.

And, as golf is played by a wide variety of folk, I also intend chatting with club captains, the game's characters and those committee members who ensure everything from competitions to social nights run smoothly.

Beyond this, it would be great to think that youngsters in particular could ignore much of the nonsense written about golf's supposed stuffi-ness and start playing the game themselves.

If your club runs a juniors or youth programme, let me know.

My intention is to also pass occasional comment on the professional game, such as the girly argie-bargie at last weekend's Solheim Cup, or consider the chances of the runners and riders ahead of golf's majors.

During a normal round of golf, we tend to chat, laugh and joke with our fellow players and so it should be with this column.

Email me your thoughts, suggestions, jokes and, hopefully, we'll soon be sharing a glass in the Mail's clubhouse.

Incidentally, did you see where my ball landed? In association with Now Open on Ash Tree Road, Stirchley (inside Wickes, Mon-Sat: 7:30am-8pm, Sun: 10am-4pm)

CAPTION(S):

Peter Sharkey in action during the British Par3 Championship at Nailcote Hall.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Article Type:Column
Date:Aug 22, 2013
Words:632
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