MAGAZINE 2023-24

I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of writer, actor and director Craig Cash when we worked together many years ago on The Mrs Merton Show. Craig is one of the reasons I have a dodgy BAFTA award on my mantelpiece; the other is the great Caroline Aherne. They were the comedy engine that powered the show - basically my job as Producer was to take them out for a good lunch every time they threatened to go on strike.

Around once a week.

Funny people and golf seem to go together. I once played Wentworth with another British comedy legend and spotted three more ageing icons wheeling their trolleys on an adjoining fairway - namely, Bruce Forsyth, Jimmy Tarbuck and Kenny Lynch. It was a moment best summed up as Jurassic Park meets Last of the Summer Wine.

It turned out Craig played golf too and a match was arranged between me and my dad, and Craig and his father-in-law, Bill. Both older men belonged to Britain’s Greatest Generation with many memories of World War Two. I recall Bill describing Craig’s strategy on one hole as “zig-zagging like an Allied convoy”.

I spoke with Craig about the game we love, and which torments us so.

MG: Why did you start playing golf and when?

CC: My father-in-law, Bill, who you refer to, taught me to play in his back garden when I was thirty odd years old. Too late was the cry! By his own admission he was far from being a good enough golfer to teach, so it was very much the blind leading the blind. There was a lot of shouting “Fore!” to the panic stricken neighbours guarding their greenhouses. I remember Bill winning the Saturday comp at our local club one year, much to the surprise of all present, nobody more so than him. So proud of his extremely rare victory he declared in his winning speech, “This prize is going on my mantelpiece where it’s going to stay til the day I die.” He’d won a set of suitcases.

MG: How would you rate your ability?

CC: Somewhere between bad and bloody awful.

MG: How would you describe your swing and who have you modelled it on? When I first played with you I was reminded of a Soviet Olympic hammer thrower from the 1970s.

CC: You flatter me Mark. It’s a cross between an inebriated Soviet hammer thrower and Mr. Bean on ice. I modelled it on The Tasmanian Devil.

MG: Is golf good for your health and state of mind?

CC: Only as much good for my health as it was for Bing Crosby’s. I’ve died several times on the course, always of embarrassment. As for state of mind, it’s a cruel game. I can come off the course on cloud nine sometimes, but most times I come off feeling like I’ve been hit by the number 9 bus.

MG: What is your worst moment on a golf course?

CC: Being hit in the mouth by an errant golf ball one Saturday during a match play event must be up there. I stupidly turned to look who was shouting “Fore!” and copped it, full on. I was bleeding profusely and required stitches later, but I played on as I was two up with two to play and we had a pound side bet. Needless to say the opposition sank a putt to halve the match on the eighteenth.

MG: What is your best moment on a golf course? The answer must involve golf.

CC: I won the Captains Day prize in 2016 at Mellor & Townscliffe where I was a member back then. It was just one of those elusive days where everything went right for a change. Bursting with pride, I called a close golfing friend who was absent, holidaying that day, to ask him if he could guess who’d won. He went through the entire field before saying my name. None of my BAFTA wins or any other TV award I’ve lifted ever felt as good as that one did that day.

Craig shortly before he was evicted from the Home of Golf
Craig shortly before he was evicted from the Home of Golf.

MG: What is your favourite golf course and why?

CC: I could say Royal Liverpool but I’d be accused of creeping and tapping you for another game and my hints usually fall on deaf ears so I’d have to say The Old Course at St Andrews. I go there a lot. I love the atmosphere of the town. There’s no feeling like teeing it up there where all the greats have done the same. Unlike myself, most of them could hit the widest fairway in golf. I named my production company “Jellylegs” after the feeling you get on that first tee. I also love Kingsbarns just down the road, so stunningly beautiful but sadly I had to remortgage my house to play there. Takes the shine off a bit.

Craig following through at Kingsbarns
Craig following through at Kingsbarns.

MG: Who are your favourite players?

CC: I like Big John Daly as I feel I can identify with him the most. Off the course not on it obviously. I can’t stand the ones who spend their lives in the gym. What’s all that about? They make me feel bad about myself. The only push ups I want after golf are the ones off my stool to the bar again. Like most golfers I loved and still miss Seve for his flair and passion for the game. I had a lesson from one of his brothers in Spain one year, hoping a bit of the Ballesteros magic would rub off on me. Maybe we’d get on and he’d introduce me to his brother later in the bar? He spent most of the hour slowly shaking his head in disbelief as he watched me. I can still hear him tutting now. He couldn’t get away quick enough once I’d paid him. I can still remember his tyres screeching in the car park as I waved goodbye though the cloud of dust he’d left behind.

MG: Cheating, of course, is anathema to you, me and anyone else who has rolled a golf ball down their trouser leg - but do you indulge in mind games while putting an opponent to the sword?

CC: Who, moi? Never! Although saying, “That putt’s not quite a gimme is it? Well, not for you...” - when the ball is twelve inches from the hole I’ve found to be quite unsettling for the opposition.

MG: Are you a member of a golf club or clubs, and, if so, how on earth did you get in?

CC: I’m a member of Stockport GC which is my home course, a lovely parkland course and the members are a good laugh. I’m a member of The New GC St Andrews and Ladybank GC which is a cracking heathland course 25 minutes south of St Andrews, you should play it when visiting the area. Top track and great value for money. No idea how I got in any of them. I should have listened to Groucho Marx: “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

MG: On the LIV Tour it seems you can finish last on 28 over and still pocket 1500,000. Have you thought of asking to join?

CC: Many times. I’d clean up. And as a lifelong Manchester City fan I can hardly complain about accepting money from state sponsorship.

MG: Over the years I have discovered that golf is like sex - I am absolutely brilliant at both of them when I am on my own. Has the game taught you any life lessons?

CC: It’s taught me that I like golf best when I get on the course without paying when invited by a member as their guest. To extend your simile, I’d say, “Golf is like sex - once you start paying for it, it’s a slippery slope.”

MG: Finally, your prediction - who will win the 151st Open?

CC: Rory. Lightning does strike twice. Although now I’ve had a bet on him there’s nowt as sure as him missing that vital putt on the last.

Craig with his late father-in-law, Big Bill Davies
Craig with his late father-in-law, Big Bill Davies.
The Royle Family: Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash as Denise and Dave Best
The Royle Family: Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash as Denise and Dave Best.