|Fred Couples at the 1992 Open|
Watching the Masters Golf tournament at the weekend, I was astonished to see how well Fred Couples was playing. He’s been off the radar for quite a while, probably because he now qualifies for and plays on the ‘Seniors tour’, but he’s always been a favourite of mine, probably because for 40 years of my professional life, and despite being asked how my name was spelt, everybody would spell it ‘Couples’ anyway.
Couples is a terrifically popular golfer and for a couple of decades was the pro most amateurs said they would prefer to play a round with. Tiger Woods has obviously taken that accolade now and I suspect that his stories of ‘off green’ activities hasn’t diminished his appeal one iota. But Fred was always the fans' favourite.
I remember Couples was playing in the British Open at Muirfield quite a few years back (1992 actually) and I was watching his progress with some interest, not just because I followed him as a golfer but also because I’d actually played both courses and the courses were familiar to me.
Couples was in contention for the Open but then his wife was reported to have ‘hit a bar’ in the town, had drunk quite a bit and then had started stripping off whilst dancing on a table in the bar. Couples game went to pot after that and he did not win. Rumour has it that he deliberately played badly so he could go home and get away from the missus, which he did.
And it was during this time when his popularity was at its height when I went to play a round of golf with my mates. The course was out Beaconsfield way and we headed off into the restaurant for lunch prior to playing.
Lunch was ordered at a counter where you paid up-front and then you gave your name on the basis that the waitress would bring your food to you when it was ready.
‘What’s your name’, she asked. ‘Cupples’, I said. There wasn’t even a flicker of name recognition – she didn’t even look up from the counter to see if it was the famous golfer standing there but I distinctly saw her write it as ‘Couples’. ‘First name’, she asked. ‘Fred’, I lied. Still not a flicker of adulation.
About 20 minutes later, she was wandering around the restaurant with my lunch on a tray, shouting, ‘Fred Couples, lunch for Fred Couples’.
My mates were in stitches. The rest of the restaurant was in apoplexy – was he really there in their golf club?