We’ve all seen videos on YouTube of golf trolleys falling into lakes as their helpless owners watch on. Some of us have even been lucky to witness such hilarious events in person.
But for 39-year-old financial controller Alan Neill, it was no laughing matter as a gust of wind caught his equipment and swept it to a watery grave at The Celtic Manor.
Playing the resort’s iconic Twenty Ten course, Mr Neill used a bunker rake to fish his golf bag – minus the trolley and several clubs – out of the lake. But only when he was assessing the damage did the five-handicapper realise he had left the pocket containing his valuables open.
Mr Neill’s phone was soggy yet safe, but a £1,500 watch and his wedding ring were nowhere to be seen and extensive trawling of the bank by Mr Neill and his three playing partners failed to find them.
“I even stripped down to my boxer shorts and went in looking for them,” said Mr Neill. “But it’s a steep bank and the water was very murky.
“I did manage to find five or six of my missing golf clubs but it was absolutely freezing, too cold to stay in for more than a few minutes.
“I was losing hope and thought our attempts to find the watch and the wedding ring might have buried them further under the sludge on the bottom of the lake.”
Mr Neill stayed overnight at the hotel, venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup, and then watched on as Celtic Manor greenkeepers took over the search at sunrise. But another two hours trawling the bottom with a fishing net yielded hundreds of golf balls, but nothing else.
The hapless golfer headed home to Gloucester but Celtic Manor had not abandoned all hope. The management called in Cynon Valley Sub Aqua Club, a group of divers who had performed exercises before in a separate irrigation reservoir for the golf courses.
The team accepted the challenge and, after a couple of hours of systematic searching, advanced diver Howard Lewis was able to find the watch and wedding ring with the help of underwater metal-detecting equipment.
“I’m over the moon,” said Mr Neill, originally from Northern Ireland. “The watch is quite valuable but I was most worried about losing the wedding ring.
“Most things are replaceable but a wedding ring is not. My wife and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary in September so it feels great to have the ring back.
“The watch was still ticking when they found it so my only losses are a seven-iron and a GPS range-finding device, which I retrieved at the time but it has not worked since being in the water.
“All in all, it’s a very happy ending and I can’t thank the divers and the team at Celtic Manor enough.
“That was customer service to the extreme.”
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