Ah well, it looks as though I won’t get the chance to have my picture taken with Mr Green at Hampden today, as I have the chance of going to a friend’s house to mark his birthday with pakora, pool and a pint. With all due respect to Queen’s Park and their opponents, that actually seems a far more enticing prospect than a wet and windy Hampden.
However, I did want to add to my tale of corporate hospitality events with a non-football related one. If you read the first piece, you might not be surprised to learn that things did not run smoothly here either.
In either 1997 or 1998 (I forget which one) I was given two “corporate hospitality” tickets to the Scottish Open Golf at Loch Lomond. My employer at the time had the tickets for the full week, and I was offered them for the Thursday, being the first day of competition. I was delighted to accept, and suggested to my wife that she come with me. She had never been to a golf tournament before so the prospect of “hospitality” overcame that of “trudging round a golf course”.
The only time before I had been at a golf tournament as a sponsor’s guest was many years ago when the Scottish Open (then a tournament only for Scots professionals) was played at Dalmahoy. I was there as my father’s guest, and as his driver, so could not take advantage of the free and unlimited bar laid on by Dryburgh’s the sponsor.
I vividly recall the great Brian Barnes, one of the most remarkable Scottish golfers ever, popping into the bar before he tee’d off. He collected half a dozen cans of beer, and a couple of miniatures, and headed out onto the course. Clearly these were intended to prevent any risk of de-hydration during the round, and they did not adversely affect his play, as I recall him scoring about a 67!
Anyway, back to Loch Lomond …
My wife had planned for us to have the full day away, and our two young children had duly been dispatched to their grandmother’s home for safe keeping. I put a slight dent in the plan though by telling my wife that, even though I had the day off, there was one case I needed to attend to at court in the morning. As I told her, I would “pop over” to Dumbarton, deal with the case and get back, so we would be on the road from Hamilton to Loch Lomond by 11am.
Needless to say, the court did not run to plan. The hearing was held back, and when it did take place was more contentious than expected. I had to carry out negotiations re the matter in dispute with the other lawyer, and then ring my client for instructions. Finally I finished at court around 12 noon. However, as I drove out of the car park heading east, I suddenly realised I had to go west.
The story is told of the two Celtic fans walking to the turnstiles in Seville for the UEFA Cup Final in 2003. One turns to the other and says “I wish I had brought my washing machine with me”. His comrade asks him why. “Because our match tickets are sitting on top of it!” came the anguished reply!
Similarly, I remembered at that point that my tickets, complete with magic passes to the hospitality tent were sitting safe and secure in my office, which was in Helensburgh. So a quick 20 minutes over to the office. A few quick phone calls, and then back to Hamilton. I made it home around 1.20pm and changed in a couple of minutes and finally we were back on the road.
We had stocked up on sun cream as the day was bright and clear. As we headed towards the lochside however, the sky started to darken. Undaunted we made our way on, and finally, after being stuck in the queue of traffic headed to the course, parked the car in a surprisingly dry field beside the path leading to the course.
In my haste I had forgotten to bring my golf shoes, but was still in my leather slip-ons.
We made our way up the hill and crested it to see that we had emerged beside a green which, at that very moment, was being approached by a group containing Tom Lehman, former Open champion and Jose Maria Olazabal. As we reached the edge of the green, and as the players went to mark their balls prior to putting, there was the sound of a loud klaxon echoing over the course.
The sky had darkened considerably, and at the far end of the course there had been lightning! Play was suspended.
I reassured my wife that it was just a precaution, and that we should wait where we were, as it did not look like rain. As those words passed my lips, some very large raindrops appeared, then some more, and finally huge numbers of them, together with approaching lightning. We made our way, along with the rest of the galleries, to the tented village. At that point I realised that leather slip-ons are not very useful when walking on wet grass.
We made it to the village however, and headed past the first tent, which seemed half full, but was not the “sponsors and guests” tent. I assured my wife that we could benefit from the hospitality there. Unfortunately, it seemed that about 2,000 other sponsors’ guests had turned up, and a marquee which was very large, was packed to the gunwales. At the far end, over the sea of heads, I could see the bar. I also realised that the only way of getting there would have involved climbing onto the roof, cutting a hole in the canvas, and dropping down, Mission Impossible style, next to the bar.
The big screen televisions in the tent were showing live coverage of the rain falling, so we did not need to look outside to see that the weather was still bad. So we decided to wait for a few minutes for the squall to pass …
And we waited …
And we waited …
After about three hours in the tent, there were signs that the storm was finally passing over. We had made it no nearer to the bar than our first foray into the tent had taken us. My wife was not impressed so far by corporate hospitality.
I suggested we could head out as the rain was becoming intermittent, and we could guarantee ourselves a good vantage point. However it was pointed out that we did need to collect our children, so we might as well head home.
We squeezed out of the tent, and at that point saw the only live golf shot of the day – a small boy with a stick, hitting a stone!
By now, and despite the excellent drainage at the course, the walkways were Somme-like with mud. It was now hard to walk without one’s shoes being sucked off by the gloop. Somehow I made it back to the car, down the now Cresta Run like path, and discovered that what had been a surprisingly dry field was now a sea of mud. Glastonbury on a bad weekend came to mind.
We managed to squelch our way out of the car park – eventually – and then found ourselves stuck for another hour in a creeping queue of traffic making its way from the course to the Balloch roundabout, where the road broadened enough for the speed of the cars to reach about 20mph.
We finally made it home after 8pm.
We had been away from the house for almost 8 hours. I had ruined a pair of shoes. The car looked as if it needed four goes through a car wash simply to get the mud off. My wife was deeply unimpressed by golf and corporate hospitality. And we had seen one shot – by a small boy with a stick …
So, all in all, if I had been able to take advantage of the hospitality at Hampden today, I suspect that something untoward would have happened. For the sake of everyone’s enjoyment therefore, it is far better that I am off at the pool, pakora and a pint party!
Posted by Paul “Jonah” McConville