The Major and the Balloon

The Royal & Ancient Clubhouse

The Secretary
St Andrew’s KA7 3ER
Fife, Scotland
June 22nd 2007

Dear Major Warren-Dawlish,

I write to thank you on behalf of the R&A for the most successful Open Final Qualifying event staged at Royal St Luke’s. Please convey to Admiral Boothby and his regiment of marshals, stewards and scorers our unreserved thanks for the military precision and civil efficiency of the entire operation. Would the Club be willing now to consider a formal request from the R&A to rejoin the Open Championship rota? It has now been over 20 years since St Luke’s withdrew following the riot in the tented village and I think tempers have cooled sufficiently on both sides for the matter to be revisited.

One incident from your Final Qualifying urgently needs to be cleared up. We have received a formal notice of proceedings from lawyers representing a Mr Shane Graham of the Suffolk hot-air Ballooning Club. It seems that, due to an unexpected change of wind, Mr Graham’s balloon, shaped apparently like a giant sauce bottle and emblazoned “ Ramage’s Brown Sauce ” drifted low across the course as play began on your final practice day. While Mr Graham was attempting to regain altitude by jettisoning ballast, he alleges that he became aware of a running figure below who repeatedly shouted and gesticulated up at him. This figure was tall and burly, seemed to be wearing a Panama hat and plus fours – and was carrying what Mr Graham initially believed to be a shooting stick.

The figure, still running and looking upwards, then fell head over heels through a gorse bush and into a bunker. Thereupon, alleges Mr Graham, there was a loud bang from below and his basket, balloon and bottom were peppered with buckshot. He has enclosed a photograph of his backside taken later at A&E at Suffolk Infirmary which seems, prima facie , to confirm this. Apparently the now punctured balloon leaked so much gas that its also punctured pilot had to make an emergency descent into Waveney marsh, where a hard landing in mud and razor reeds did nothing for his posterior injuries – or his temper.

We understand that repairs to the balloon (and to Mr Graham) will be expensive and that we are to be the subject of proceedings under, of all things, the Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Emergency Regulations) Act of 1940. This would be the first such action in peacetime and, as you’ll appreciate, is highly embarrassing to the R&A. I therefore asked one of our Members, Air Chief Marshal Sir Digby Gardiner, how we should respond. His opinion is that a hot air balloon – even if it is looks like a sauce bottle, a spark plug or even a giant nappy, is actually an aircraft under the terms of the Act and it is illegal to open fire on it – unless it has clearly shown “ hostile intent ”

We are thus in the difficult position of either paying compensation quietly to Mr Graham, or going to Court to show that we believed ourselves to be under attack by a flying sauce bottle. The press will have a field day.

Finally, since the description of the anti-aircraft gunner bears a remarkable similarity to yourself, perhaps you might favour us with your version of events….

Yours ever,

Charles Delacourt

Secretary, Championship Committee.

Royal St. Luke’s Golf Club (Est. 1603)

pulsa inveni repulsa

Dear Charley ,

What happened was this. I had been out on the course early with Williams, my caddy / beater, looking for snipe with my Purdey 12-bores when I saw the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen on a golf course. Over the hill to the landward side of the 12th rose a bloody great sauce bottle. Williams saw it first and was swearing never to touch drink again when I told him to shut up – because I could see it too. The next thing was that out of the basket below the bottle came a stream of bags of wet sand. I suppose in retrospect it was the balloonist chap tipping out the ballast, but in these circumstances one’s military training takes over. I shouted “ Take cover ! ” and released the safety catch on the shotgun. One was clearly under attack.

You can imagine the effect of 50 pound weights whistling down from 100 feet. The first one burst among the greenkeepers, the second went clean through the roof of the shelter beside the 14th green, and the next landed right in front of J.C. Materman of Sunningdale who was in the act of playing a shot. The ball went straight into the sandbag followed by his 5-iron, which broke and Materman is now in dispute with the R&A Rules Committee as to whether a wet sand bomb is, or is not, an Outside Agency. That aside, I kept pace with the thing which was now down to about 50 feet, shouting up at the chap to clear off. In response there was a deafening roar as he fired up some enormous primus stove-like flamethrower thing in the basket. At this point I fell over backwards into a bunker and the shotgun went off, just missing Williams but sending a blast of shot up into basket, balloon and driver.

He may sue us if he wishes but I will argue that the thing was clearly displaying hostile intent and I can tell you right now that we will be countersuing Ramages Sauces (which are actually rather good) for repairs to our bombed shelter. Come to think of it, Jack Materman’s a barrister and the very man to act for us. See you in court – and at Carnoustie.

Yours ever ,

RJM Warren-Dawlish