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  • Geoff Cordner

Fairy Tale Ending




In early December 2019, on the very day that Linda and I had agreed between us the style, size and colour of Ben’s gravestone, and placed an order for it, we spontaneously decided to play a few holes at North Ryde Golf Club in the late afternoon sun.


Linda had sent Tim a text message letting him know what we were planning to do, and he happily agreed to join us after he finished work. Which led to him meeting up with us as we headed down the 4th hole on a beautiful balmy early summer evening.

As is often the case these days when it is just the three of us together doing some shared activity, I couldn’t help but think how lucky we are to have each other and, at the same time, how much we miss having Ben around to add his special blend of good humour and banter (and just a pinch of gentle aggravation) to the mix.

After the ninth hole, as we approach the Clubhouse, Linda tells us she has had enough for the day, and is intending to head home to make a start on dinner. Dusk is falling, but Tim and I agree between us to play four more holes – the 10th, 11th, 12th and 18th – in the fading light.

Golf courses are beautiful places at any time, but as evening descends, with almost no-one else around but my oldest, and only surviving son, it seems there is something spiritual in the air. As we play those final holes it genuinely feels like Ben is there with us, and I experience this incredible sense of peace and contentment – sensations not that easy to come by since January 26.

Although we don’t discuss it, I feel sure Tim is experiencing something similar. We are nothing more than average golfers, but the standard of our play over the next hour comfortably exceeds our usual form, and in a seemingly effortless fashion.


We both have threes on the par 3 10th hole. On the 11th, a short par 4, Tim cuts the corner and drives the green, and I am not far short of doing the same. On the 12th, another short par 4, it is my turn to drive the green – something I have never done before. In what seems like some highly improbable golfing daydream I now find myself looking at a 20-foot putt for a 2!


It seems clear to me at this point that Ben, or some other benign supernatural force, is having a significant influence on proceedings, so I speak to my boy silently in my head as I line up the putt. “What do you reckon mate? I think it’s pretty well dead straight”. Ben agrees. And as it turns out we are both right.


I hit the uphill putt truly. It never deviates from its line, and reaches the flagstick ‑ which can be left in the hole these days with no penalty if the ball strikes it – at the perfect speed to gently collect the bottom of the flag, and drop safely into the hole for my first-ever eagle.


Only it doesn’t.


The ball trickles to the hole, hits the middle of the flagstick … and perversely bounces out again. Tim, who has reached the flag at this point, having completed his own putt, looks at me in bewilderment. “What the hell happened there?” he asks. It is one of those things you see, and even though you know for sure that it happened, you can’t quite believe that it has.


I tell Tim about my little conversation with Ben before making the putt. “I think he’s taking the piss with you then. That ball should have dropped for sure”, he says with a smile. Disappointed as I am, I can’t help but laugh, and conclude Tim has hit the nail on the head. Ben giveth, and Ben taketh away. But my sense that Ben is with us is only strengthened by the experience.

We head to the next tee for our final hole, which is the par 3 18th. As Tim takes his swing, I say to Ben under my breath – “Come on mate, let’s see if we can get your big brother a hole-in-one here eh?” Tim strikes his 9-iron as pure as I have ever seen him hit it on this hole, or any hole for that matter. The light is poor, and the flag is set at the front of the green, right behind a bunker which obscures our view of the bottom of the flagstick. But the ball looks to be right on line, landing about six feet behind the hole, and spinning back down the hill towards the cup. As we make our way to the green in the gathering gloom I seriously believe we are going to find Tim’s ball at the bottom of the hole.

But there is to be no fairytale ending to this story – at least not yet.


We reach the green to discover Tim’s ball has in fact ended up below the hole, leaving him a putt of about 12 feet for his birdie; something he tells me later he has never previously achieved here. After chipping my ball to a similar distance, we both hit our putts right into the heart of the hole; flagstick out of course!

As a result of Tim’s 2 and my 3 we have collectively played our final four holes in 1 under par; an almost unthinkable outcome for two part-time hackers like us. I hug Tim long and hard. I tell him how much I have enjoyed the round, and how much it means to me to be able to share these sorts of precious moments with him. I confess I have felt for some time that we are not on our own, and he intimates that he understands exactly what I am saying.


Any doubt either of us may have had that there is something special in the ether is snuffed out less than a minute later, as we return to the carpark. Because there right in front of us, the first car we come to, just metres from the first tee, and one of only a handful of vehicles still at the Club on this balmy Monday evening, is a car I have never seen before bearing the numberplate BEN 893.

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