Snapshots of Costa Rica (4)
Golfing tips from Geraldo
The Cariari Country Club had every reason to look concerned when Howard and I turned up to play golf on Tuesday morning. For a start, the Cariari is Costa Rica's premier golf club. Also it's members only. And also - and I think this might have been the clincher - Howard was wearing a Dad's Army outfit.
The security girl looked very dubious. Ditto the pro shop. But we stuck to our guns and dropped PokerStars' name in it at every opportunity. This got us down to the payment area. "You will have to have a caddy", said the club manager, hoping this would throw us off the scent. "Or two caddies if you don't take a cart". We opted for one caddy and one cart and handed over our crumpled colones.
Enter Geraldo, our caddy. He looks utterly miserable and then he spots Howard and looks suicidal. At the first tee, things go pretty well. We don't hit the club house, each other or Geraldo. Luckly Howard has chosen tees which are about a foot long so we blame them for the first few slices.
Howard is, of course, actually pretty good at golf and I am a disaster. Geraldo therefore leaves Howard to his own devices (which mainly involves getting out of bunkers) and focuses his energies on me. It turns out there is absolutely nothing right with my game at all. I lift my head, I swing wildly and too fast and I don't use my shoulders. "Have you ever played golf", Geraldo asks me. I tell him I was course record holder at Portal del Roc pitch-and-putt for over a year. He nods wisely.
By the end of the first hole (10 for me, 7 for Howard) Geraldo has realised what he's up against. He decides to shake Howard up a bit by taking him off-piste in the golf buggy at high speed down a cliff. Howard notches up a 10 on Hole #2.
Geraldo then focuses his attentions on me. Some of it is personal "Do you have a husband? Do you have children? Is Howard your boyfriend?" and some of it is golf-related: "Don't lift your head. Straighten your arm. Use a wedge."
Howard gets a little petulant that Geraldo is giving me so much attention but cheers up when he spots a kingfisher and an iguana, thus augmenting the Attenborough credentials he gained on our raft trip for spotting a frog.
Nevertheless, the front nine is basically a disgrace for us both.
Howard: 7 - 10 - 6 - 4 - 6 - 8 - 4 - 6 - 10 (61)
Mad: 10 - 8 - 10 - 10 - 10 - 9 - 8 - 8 - 6 (79)
By now it is pouring with rain (when is it not in this blasted country) and Geraldo is in despair. Luckily we spy a drinks trolley. Geraldo has a coca cola and Howard and I have coffee and a whisky. Geraldo looks sceptical but things can't get any worse and he's right. Hole #10 is a cracking 5 for us both.
A word at this point about the course. For a start, it's totally stunning. A tropical Sotogrande with iguanas thrown in. Wildlife, exotic trees, acres of manicured fairway. It's beautiful - and one of the water hazards is a full-on ravine with Grade 5 rapids! You don't get that at Perivale Municipal.
We plough on (often quite literally) and Geraldo starts to cheer up. For a start his tips are paying off and I'm beginning to play some decent shots. I even take a couple of holes off Howard. At last we are playing some good golf. It's still raining but it's beautiful and we don't care. We love golf and we're beginning to love Geraldo.
Geraldo, for the record, plays off 3, came 3rd in the Costa Rica Open and has worked as a caddy at the Cariari for 15 years. If I hadn't left my camera in San Remo, you'd even be able to see what he looks like.
The game draws to an end and Howard and I are almost grieved. It's been heaven. Geraldo has been great. Final scores: 109 for Howard; 136 for me.