x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Golf-scoring adventure is par for the course

The opportunity of acting as walking scorers for the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters can change your mind about the game of golf.

A week ago, my definition of golf would have been something along the lines of "hitting little balls into holes with sticks". Over the past few days, however, every cell in my brain has been crammed with in-depth, often worthless trivia about the game, as students from my school were given the opportunity of acting as walking scorers for the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters.

A couple of friends who had done it last year were pretty enthusiastic, and filled me in on all the details, offering invaluable nuggets of advice. These mostly consisted of things such as, "You'll want to try a shawarma from Noodle House, they're so nice, and then there's this divine sweet potato thing with guacamole, it's amazing", and so on. Teenagers will be teenagers, and more than the golf, what many of us were interested in was the food coupons you receive before duty starts.

I finally managed to get someone to stop rambling on, starry-eyed, about the lovely fish and chips they had the last time they were walking scorer, and tell me what walking scorers actually do. Turned out we had to follow golfers around for one match, and count the number of strokes they took to get the ball into each hole. After each hole we even got to speak into a little portable radio and tell "Control" what the current score of each of the golfers we were tailing was. It made us look quite important, I thought.

Much to our delight, we were all presented with the Greg Norman golf shirts that, with black bottoms, was the uniform of the scorers. Even better, they were baby pink, so we spent a good couple of minutes cooing over them before we tried them on. Mr Davidson, the chief scorer, very kindly laughed aside our whining and got us girls shifts together, so everything went pretty much perfectly.

When we finally arrived at Emirates Golf Club, where the Ladies Masters was taking place, the first thing that greeted our eyes was a massive bouncy castle. Being us, of course, we had to make a beeline for it. Just as we were about to fling ourselves upon it, though, Jess hissed something about spotting some good-looking guys, so we immediately regained our composure and walked demurely off to sign in and fetch our radios and clipboards. Ah, youth, we heard a lady sigh, smiling at us. She evidently thought we were bonkers. We glided as dignifiedly as we could to the makeshift office, where our teachers handed us what we needed and directed us to the first hole.

Although each match usually just has one scorer to its two or three players, happily, I was paired up with a friend who would show me the ropes, it being my first time. Spraying on the sun cream, fretting because it went in Sarah's ear, plonking hats firmly on our crowns and stuffing our bags as full of sandwiches, cheesecake and chocolate as we could from the stalls (in case we felt a bit peckish) we arrived at the hole. We were introduced to the golfers and then they were off, their clubs (not sticks, as Sarah pointed out) glinting in the boiling afternoon heat. I suppose I've lived here too long to appreciate the sun; one of the golfers from the UK gushed that she was definitely returning to play next year if the weather continued to be "so beautiful".

The first time Sarah let me bellow into the portable radio, perhaps a tad louder than needed, "Match 17 to control, Hole so-and-so" and send in the scores, I couldn't help feeling immensely proud. There was something deeply moving about how official it all sounded.

During the course of the four days, I managed almost to lose a radio, to sneeze explosively just as the marshal of the match raised the "Quiet, please" board and to earn stares when we raced down a hill much too noisily. No matter, though, because we were thanked prettily by the golfers at the end of every match, were presented with a couple of the balls they had played with and even managed to get a few rounds in on the bouncy castle.

Sadly, every time we went on it was just after we had indulged in some of the rather richer meals available, so most of our visits ended up with us staggering off looking fairly more green-tinged than usual.

On the last day, when I wasn't paired up with anyone, my marshal took it upon himself to teach me every little nuance of golf. By the end of the match, there wasn't a thing I didn't know about greens or tees or wayfairs. Or fairways, I can't remember which. Although I couldn't stay for the grand ending to the tournament, scoring is certainly something I'd love to do next year, if just for the sweet potatoes.

The only thing Jess found fault with, though, was that there were no "hot male golfers" - a bit hard to correct, seeing that it was the Ladies' Masters. In the meantime, we have the Dubai Desert Classic - the men's version of the tournament - to look forward to, something I daresay we will enjoy even more.

The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai.