John Inverdale is a tough old boot and he’s needed to be.
A long career playing rugby and withstanding the normal knocks that come with the game but also the further rugby injuries that come from being the well-known broadcast journalist that he is and the jealousies that this can cause.
And as a journalist also, in our twitter-rage age where everyone has an opinion, John Inverdale has been on the receiving end of invective and I have defended him before.
And less well known but he’s taken even more painful knocks on the golf course also – most recently, yesterday.
For more than 15 years, John and I have played golf against one another – with my playing partner, David (who is much better than me) – we have beaten John soundly over the years.
But yesterday was a different beating altogether.
Playing with my son Tom – and stepping on to the 10th tee, with the honour and driver in hand, I was ready to hit.
Crunch my ball flew off low and hard and not in the direction that I had intended.
I didn’t have time to shout ‘Four’ – as my ball headed straight left and towards the ‘Voice of BBC Sport’. I watched in horror as my ball at 300mph crunched in to my opponent and possibly ex-friend.
John screamed and went down like he’d been shot.
Writhing on the floor and in obvious agony, I was ashen as dark thoughts crashed through my mind. There was no blood and it hadn’t hit his head, so this was not likely to be fatal. But still painful and bloody compromising. It might have broken something at least.
John Inverdale took some time to get to his feet and made off for the clubhouse and an ice pack – clutching his elbow which had taken the full impact, the evidence being the white dimples on his black shirt!
As I say, a hardy soul because with a pint and a sandwich inside him and the swelling abating, it seemed that John would indeed play golf again (0ne day) and I was somewhat off the hook.
His playing partner, David was none too impressed. ‘Bloody stupid’ he called me and I couldn’t disagree.
‘A fucking shit shot’, John added and again I nodded and took the hit. It was a shank left and normally my problem shot is a…
And then once we all settled in to the glow that nothing was broken, the dark humour surfaced. On the tenth tee, Tom and I were 5 up – and so I had no need to hit John with a ball and even if the game had been closer, it would have been his playing partner, David I would have wanted to hit anyway.
John didn’t laugh and who could blame him.
I apologised profusely and ran a bottle of wine over to him at home later on.
Meanwhile, at the Holland household, everyone is taking great delight in what a knob I am – Tom having taken great delight in explaining Dad’s predicament.
My wife shakes her head in disappointment and helpfully explains that I could have killed him.
Everyone agrees that I am a knob and life continues as normal until it occurs to me that it could all have been prevented by Tom.
Tom wants to know how – ‘What if I’d teed off first?’ He asks.
No, you knob. You’re supposed to be a bloody super-hero.’
And so my apologies to John Inverdale again who will not be able to play me again for some weeks I expect – and this might slow down his recovery – because as much as his elbow hurts, I figure it will not be as painful as losing 5 down.