Page 10, 28th February 1986

28th February 1986
Page 10
Page 10, 28th February 1986 — Seventy-nine and no handicap

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Locations: Denby Dale


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Seventy-nine and no handicap

Keywords: Human Interest

HENRY COTTON, three times British Open Golfing Champion, is outright winner of the cliché "Living Legend". Some people feel that he is a cold, sardonic fish and, indeed, as he has said himself, he doesn't often smile on the outside.

In extenuation, one tends to forget — or one is in no position to remember — the background against which he achieved his astonishing eminence in the world of golf, watched by kings and courted by the court jesters of his era. It seems that, in those days, golf (which hasn't yet totally escaped) was largely ruled by the kind of pompous snobs one imagines built and wrecked empires. Harry Bradshaw from Portmarnock remembers clearly being told to make sure he used the back entrance at St Andrews or Carnoustie or wherever since, so far as the big shots on the committee were concerned, as a professional golfer he ranked somewhere between the hired help and the dustbin collector. Bradshaw's golf soon made them whistle another tune. Cotton, I imagine, came in the front door without bothering to ask. More power to his mashie!

Last week the aloof Cotton with the hooded eyes and the hooked nose reached the ripe old age of 79. He told me he was highly embarrassed when, having said to someone "Well, 1 made 79", the fellow rushed off telling someone that Henry had gone round in 79.

"1 couldn't go round in 79" said the maestro, taking the matter very seriously, "unless I used the front tees and gave myself all the putts."

I must say I wish I could do it even that way.

Naturally enough, age was quite much to the forefront of his mind. At a party in his honour, he said: "I never thought this could happen to me. I thought all my friends were dead."

At which point he looked slowly around and added: "Now I realise they're only half dead!"

"I'm holding on as long as I can" he said. "I know this place I don't know the next."

He told me a lovely story about Winston Churchill being photographed on his eightieth birthday. The photographer, in awe of the old war dog, said: "I'm very honoured, Mr Churchill. I only hope I'll be photographing you on your eight-first birthday".

Churchill looked at him over the cigar.

"I see no reason why you shouldn't. You look healthy enough to me."

I don't suppose there are that many people who know the village of Denby Dale near Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. I do for a most unusual reason. In 1964 we made a pilot for television which was later to become the Eamonn Andrews Show on ABC and which I modestly understand to have been the first late night chat show on British television. (Something to be hidden, some might feel, rather than crowed over.) We had read about the villagers plan to bake an enormous record-breaking meat and potato pie and sell it, piece by piece, later for charity. We were able to display some of the pie and chat to some of the key people involved. Alas, the reason I remember it so clearly is that, on the way home, there was a fatal car crash involving some of the villagers we had so recently met. So I'm glad to read that, over twenty years later, they've taken heart again and they're going to make a bigger and better one than the original, which contained three tons of beef and one and a half tons of potatoes!

I WONDER how much televised Masses mean to the housebound and the sick? I have a feeling this might be one area — or should I say another area — where radio beats the goggle box. Not so long ago, I watched a studio Folk Mass on Radio Eireann and I must say it was beautifully done and sensitively low key. Now I'm quite fond of baroque and bells and, for that matter, smells: but I'm also prepared to go with the austere if all else is right. Now my Folk Mass wasn't, by any means, austere but I did desperately miss any sense of a physical church. There was no crucifix to be seen anywhere (which I think always helps to concentrate the wandering mind) and there were too many faces, delightful faces but distracting. In short, I found is almost impossible to Dray.

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