Confessions of a weary pro shop assistant – Coronavirus edition

John Craven

Damien McGrane after winning the final round of the Volvo China Open at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club on April 20, 2008 (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

John Craven

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I fell out of bed this morning, panicked. Between the clocks going forward and the alarm lying dormant on the locker, I was sure I’d slept it out. I’d one leg through my slacks when I remembered; half-smiled and lay back down in a cold sweat, Damien McGrane peering back at me from the ceiling in his golden silks, the glass vase in hand from his China Open win, one corner of the poster clinging for dear life, the blu-tack struggling to hold it. I wonder how Carlow’s coping with all this?

I tried to rub the life into my eyes with the backs of my knuckles – shouldn’t be touching my face but I washed my hands before bed and hardly caught the bug sleeping. No matter how rigorously I rubbed there was no getting away from it though. This is it. The new Sunday morning routine. No tee sheet to manage. Seagull out the window laughing at me. Not an ocean near.

Thought golf would be immune to it. When Varadkar capped it at groups of four I was cleaning the grooves myself. Wouldn’t mind, I went walking down the canal yesterday and met more people than we’ve had green fees this year. Can’t understand it. If anyone was struggling with social distancing, I would’ve paired them with Frank. He’s discovered more new land playing golf than Columbus.

I knew the country was doomed when he came into the shop to tell me he’d be putting the clubs away for the foreseeable. Head on him like Neil Armstrong – like he fell face first in a fishbowl.

“Jane’s spooked,” he told me, wobbly on his feet from the weight of the helmet. “Said I can’t be up here again until it’s all over.”

“One small step for man and all that, Frank.”

He must’ve swallowed a breath down the wrong pipe, his face reddening, like he’d somehow managed to fill the bowl with farts.

“Are you OK, Frank?”

He couldn’t suppress it any longer; his mouth forced open by a rush of air, first leaving him in gentle chugs that gathered pace, deeper, harsher, faster until he was spluttering uncontrollably, a chorus of bodily fluids splattering the windscreen, drowning out his face.

“I’m fine,” he said, eventually.

“You don’t look fine, Frank. Does that thing have wipers?”

He staggered around the shop floor, taking out a display of FootJoys I’d worked out like an elaborate game of Tetris that morning.

“Come here would ya,” I said, linking his arm and leading him to the seat in the corner.

“You shouldn’t be touching me,” he said. “You could be a vector.”

I looked to his eyes, hidden behind thick, gloopy droplets of weather. For all I know, you could be the host.


That was a week ago now though. They say the incubation period is 14 days – not safe yet. Just as well our Sundays are spent from home so. Seven more days of self-isolation. Well, we’re not completely alone.

I looked up again at McGrane, teeth gleaming white. Eyes piercing blue and whispered to myself.

“Now that’s a PGA professional.”

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