I have a photo on the wall of the little room where I like to sit these days - reading, writing and surfing – that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck every time I look at it. It’s not a medical x-ray or an ultra sound or a CT scan or any one of a hundred of those damned things I’ve looked at in the past couple of years. It’s nothing like that at all.
It’s my photo of Tiger Woods on the 18th green at Hoylake in 2006. He’s holding the Claret Jug up in the air with one hand and saluting the crowd with the other. Red shirt. Black pants. The Open Champion again. And I took the photo.
It’s been three years now and I still can’t quite believe I was there. It’s got to the point where I do enjoy it being a lovely dream most of the time, just for the fun of sitting down in my chair and finding myself looking at the photo and realizing all over again that it is in fact real. Am I waking up or starting to dream? And does anyone else care? It’s a little game I have learned to play with myself. There are other games. But I won’t tell you about those. I don’t know how they end.
Rolling that word around my tongue, like a lolly - a ‘Hoylake’ - is one of my first golfing memories. It was 1967 and the Argentinean Roberto Di Vicenzo, whose name was equally exotic, was the story of the tournament. I read all I could about it in the newspapers. I bought every glossy magazine. I imagined how it must be. For nearly 40 years the lolly stayed in my mouth, now and again releasing a sweetness of sound and flavour. Hoylake.
So I went there. In 2006 Hoylake was so baked it had given up being green, then given up being brown and had settled for being a silver haired old man. A wise one, too. Only a wise golfer could keep firing shots through that wind, half of them heading for Wales, the other half heading for Ireland. For four days. So that’s what he did.
Then Tiger walked round the corner of the old race track that has become the practice fairway, towards the final green. The tents, the pointed flags, the encircling rows of seating, the waves of crowded emotion; all blended together on the Wirral, the Dee Estuary, ‘cross the Mersey. It became in that moment a medieval jousting tournament.
And then came the noise I’ve thought about since 1967, when I first heard of the Open, Hoylake and Roberto Di Vicenzo. It started as Woods approached the green. I could hear it for the first time. It was real at last. So I watched and cried and stuck my camera up in the air with all the others and took this wonderful photograph.
I’ve guarded my Hoylake story for three years. I’ve sat in my chair and looked at my photo. I’ve lain in bed crying because I felt so sad that my joy in it would never be shared like this. Or so I thought as the chemotherapy went on and on.
Maybe it’s just that some things take time to settle into a form that can be communicated. And they need a purpose for doing so. Well, now I’ve told the story. I’ve lived to tell it. I guess I can hold that trophy up in the air.
Cancer Council NSW would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work.We would also like to pay respect to elders past and present and extend that respect to all other Aboriginal people.