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Golf Poems about Politics and the Weather

president-taft

 

President Taft Addressing his Ball

Below are some poems from a book called “A Line o’ Gowf or Two” written by Bert Leston Tayor and published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923. Charles “Chick” Evans, the famous Chicago amateur golfer and a friend of Taylor’s, wrote the introduction. Taylor was a newspaper columnist, poet and writer. From 1910, until his death in 1921, he wrote a daily column in the Chicago Tribune under the byline “A Line o’ Type or Two.” During this time he became one of the most widely read newspaper humorists. His book is a posthumous compilation of his golf writings and poetry taken from his Tribune column.

First is a poem to fit the political season:

 ON THE FIRING LINE

At thought of what may hap today
I’m not disturbed a bit;
And who may triumph in the fray
Perplexes me no whit.

 The doings in Convention hall
Afford me no concern;
I do not speculate at all
On how the tide will turn.

 I ask not who may hit or miss,
Who perish, who survive;
The thing that bothers me is this—
Why did I hook that drive?

 Next, a poem of similar form that must have been written during the 1912 presidential campaign in which the sitting president Taft was opposed by both (Colonel) Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson:

 ADDRESSING THE BALL

I do not like the Colonel’s camp,
Because I hate a crowd;
The language there would light a lamp,
And all the talk is loud.

 I do not like the Taftian camp,
Its atmosphere is ghoulish;
The language there is dull and damp,
And all the talk is foolish.

 I do not like a hue and cry,
I do not like a ball,
A plague on both your camps, say I—
Hey, Caddy! Watch that ball!

 And finally four lines about this time of year for those of us who see winter coming:

 Gather ye foursomes while ye may,
The old year fast is going;
And this same sky that smiles to-day
To-morrow may be snowing.

After thought:

If newspapers or golf magazines still included poetry, then after the recent brouhaha involving Ian Poulter, the British golf pro, and Ted Bishop, then the head of the PGA, you might have seen a verse such as the following,

TED BISHOP’S LAST TWEET

The current head of the PGA, himself a golfing pro,
In his Tweet to Ian P. a bias he did show;
His words included “Lil Girl” a reference better skirted,
By doing so he lost his job and left colleagues disconcerted.

LSW

aside

Here are three four-lines verses that I would like to share with you on a beautiful late September morning in New England:

THE YIPS PURE AND SIMPLE

The yips occur when you can’t control
The direction or speed of the ball you roll.
You have the yips if you shake your putts
Frequent attacks can drive you nuts.

CHANGING ODDS

Heard said that trees are nine-tenths air,
If your ball gets over you hardly care;
But if it’s low and lost from view -
No more than even that your ball gets through.

NEVER MISS

To make a putt without a doubt
A mind-trick to apply:
Pretend that you’ve already missed
And this is your second try!

Leon S White, PhD

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Above and Below Par

below par

From time to time I have published Posts that include poems in which I explore opposites in golf, for example, the opposite of putting or lying. You can find the previous Posts by clicking on the category “opposites in golf” in the column on the right. I owe the idea to a famous American poet, Richard Wilbur, who wrote two books, Opposites and More Opposites “for children and others.”

If you have the time read this poem out loud. This will slow you down and hopefully you will get more from your reading. (Applying this lesson to your golf swing might help as well.)


ABOVE AND BELOW PAR

When you say about a chap, that he’s above par
Exactly what it is you mean, depends on where you are.

 If you’re on a golf course,  you’re referring to his score
Which relative to even par is at least one stroke more;

 But in a different setting, above par means
Excellent, outstanding, even sterling genes.

So above par’s opposite is that which golfer’s seek
Otherwise below par is really rather weak.   

However when below par play leads to an above par score
Then the seeming opposites are opposite no more.

Leon S White, PhD

Note: My last Post was on WW I. I plan at least one additional Post on this subject, but it will take me a while longer to put it together.

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World War I, Golf and Golf Poetry

 

Robert Stanley Weir

 The First World War began 100 years ago this month. With this in mind, I would like to devote at least the next two Posts to links between the War, golf and golf poetry. Previously I published a Post called “Golf and the Great War” (http://bit.ly/1kZL9n2). These Posts will add more stories and information to the subject.

While doing research for my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, (now available on Amazon in Europe for lower prices 6.50 pounds, 7.82 Euros), I discovered a Canadian poet-golfer named Robert Stanley Weir, 1856-1926, who wrote an impressive war-related poem at the beginning of World War I. Let me quote from my book:

“Robert Stanley Weir, a Canadian, wrote a poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” published in the April 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America. Weir, a Montreal judge, writer and poet, was most famous for writing in 1908 the first English lyrics to O Canada, Canada’s national anthem. Today’s official English lyrics to the anthem are based on Weir’s original version. A little digging also shows that Weir was a golfer and frequent contributor to Golf Illustrated. He wrote book reviews and several articles on swing mechanics. One titled “Braid or Vardon, Which?” focuses on the swings of these two champions and ends with the thought:

 ‘Whether we essay the mighty Vardonian sweep or Braid’s whip-like, corkscrew-like snap, let us beware of adopting one theory to the denial of any other possible one. It is a great satisfaction and advantage to be able to recognize and adopt both.’

 Clearly the Judge was a student of the game.

The title of Weir’s poem, “The Plains of Abraham,” refers to a plateau just outside the wall of Quebec City where a famous battle was fought between the British and French on September 13, 1759. The British won this pivotal battle; however, the British commander, General James Wolfe, was mortally wounded and died on the battle field. The French commander, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, was also mortally wounded and died the next day. From 1874 to 1915, Cove Fields on the Plains of Abraham was the site of the Quebec Golf Club. This background is needed to understand the setting for the poem. The poem, written at the beginning of the First World War, is a strong and heartfelt statement against war.

The Plains of Abraham

Here, where so long ago the battle roared
Sore frighting Dawn when, trembling, she arose
And saw the precious blood of Wolfe out-poured
And France’s hero sinks to long repose.

The grass, they say, is greener for the red
That drenched these plains and hollows all about;
And those thrice fifty years or more have spread
Much peacefulness on glacis and redoubt. [defensive fortifications]

Yes, Mother Nature, grieving, hideth soon
All trace of battles, ravage, death and pain.
The birds began to sing that afternoon—
The dusty, trodden grass to rise again.

And many a year the Citadel’s gray walls
Have seen the quiet golfers at their play:
Passing old ramparts, rusted cannon-balls,
And sighting gunless ships the river way.

Thrilled with the peace of golf the players said:
“Those cruel wars can ne’er again have birth;
The living shall no longer mourn their dead
Untimely gathered to reluctant earth.”

“The tribes shall rest—nor nearer conflict come
Than when a friendly foursome play the game;
The roaring voice of Wrath is stricken dumb
O better brotherhood than battle-fame!”

But, hark, the roaring of unnumbered guns
By salt Atlantic breezes hither blown!
And bitter cries from countless weeping ones,
While Peace is wringing her cold hands alone!”

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Golf Poetry at its Best

for Golfer's Discontent post

 

Robert K. Risk and Grantland Rice are two of my favorite golf poets. This Blog (and my book) contain poems by both. I think I remember reading that Rice wrote more than 6000 poems throughout his lifetime. He wrote on may subjects besides golf. His most famous lines come from a 1908 poem called “Alumnus Football” (http://bit.ly/1l7QLGe):

“For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,
He writes – not that you won or lost – but how you played the Game.”

 

Risk, on the other hand, seems to have limited his poetry to golf. He was a Scottish writer, poet and drama critic. As far as I know he published a single collection of golf poems in 1919 under the title, “Songs of the Links.” The book contains 36 poems and this may be all that Risk ever published. Nevertheless, almost all are worth reading. I am particularly fond of the one that I want to share with you in this post. It describes beautifully. with humor and clarity, how golfers always seem to long for some level of play that they cannot achieve. And then ends by pointing out the disappointment that would result from playing too well.

THE GOLFER’S DISCONTENT

By Robert K. Risk

The evils of the Golfer’s state
Are shadows, not substantial things –
That envious bunkers lie in wait
For all our cleanest, longest swings;
The pitch that should have won the round
Is caught and killed in heavy ground.

And even if at last we do
That 80, coveted so long,
A melancholy strain breaks through
The cadence of our even-song –
A  7  (which was “an easy 4″)
Has “spoilt our 77 score.”

And thus, with self-deception bland,
We mourn the fours that should have been,
Forgetting, on the other hand,
The luck that helped us through the green;
Calmly accepting as our due
The four-hole which we fluked in two.

The drive that barely cleared the sand,
The brassy-shot which skimmed the wall,
The useful “kick,” the lucky “land” –
We never mention these at all;
The only luck that we admit
Is when misfortune comes of it.

And therefore, in a future state,
When we shall all putt out in two,
When drives are all hole-high and straight,
And every yarn we tell is true,
Golf will be wearisome and flat,
When there is naught to grumble at.

 

 

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A Golfer’s Lament: “If only I could …”

images-tr

“If only I could play that hole again” is the title of an e-book of my golf poetry. It is a refrain that has either been uttered out loud or at least thought about by almost every golfer after playing a golf hole badly. It is certainly a worthy subject for a poem.

 If only I could play that hole again

If only I could play that hole again
I know that I could shoot a better score
That drive I hit was rather short and right
A second chance would let me make a four.

Instead my second shot is from the trees
It traveled only fifty yards at best
And left me feeling sick and ill at ease

I’m sure if asked my teacher would agree
With all the skill I have but have not shown
I should be lining up a putt for three.

Instead I have a tricky wood to play
A side-hill up-hill lie around a bend
A perfect shot would show that I’m okay.

My swing is perfect but the ball went wide
It disappeared from sight and was not found
Nothing I can do will turn the tide.

Instead of two I’m on the green in six
My second putt lips out my score is nine
Bad luck it is that put me in this fix.

I’d really like to play that hole again
To show off all my talent and my skill
My partners think my attitude is great
But check my chance to make a par as nil.

The e-book that includes this poem and many others is available on Amazon. The link is http://amzn.to/WyVnIz. I hope you will give it a look.

 

 

 

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The Playing Partner From Hell

From the USGA Digital Library

 

In 1923, The American Golfer, the golf magazine of its day, asked its readers to submit entries to answer the question “What Puts Me off My Game Most?” The April 7th issue included the responses of the three prize winners. The winner of the second prize wrote, in part,

“…I can play with the hare type and with the human tortoise…Sun nor wind nor clouds affect me, I enjoy them all. Nor does a bad hole depress me, for there are many such in my life and I should worry.

But delivery me, oh, delivery me from the fiend who coaches my each and every shot! He usually has about a twenty-four handicap. He has made every hole on the course in par, but never by any chance has he gotten two of them in the same round.

As I step up to drive it starts. My stance is wrong. I should waggle more; my backswing is too short. If I take my midiron for one hundred and twenty-five yards, I am patiently told that I should pitch up with a mashie….”

The second prize winner goes on a while longer, but you get the point.

The first prize winner complains about a similar critic that he calls “NEVER-WILLIE.” In his entry he includes these quotes:

“You never will get rid of that slice with your left toe turned out.”
“You never will hit them clean until you learn to keep your head down.”
“You never will be able to use a mashie as long as you keep dropping that right shoulder.”

At least it’s nice to know that the guy you played with last week that wouldn’t stop talking has a long history.

To immortalize this playing partner from hell, I wrote the following:

He Talks a Good Game

He talks a good game
You know the guy
He judges each swing
With a critical eye.
 

He talks a good game
Awash with advice
He’s off to the races
When he sees you slice.
 

He talks a good game
He studies the pros
He is eager to tell you
All that he knows.
 

He talks a good game
Can he turn a phrase
He talks a good game
But it’s not how he plays.
 

He talks and he talks
With eyeballs that glisten
But even the duffers
No longer listen.
 

Leon S White, PhD

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“For Michelle Wie” Revisited

[Almost two years ago when Michelle Wie graduated from Stanford, I published a Post with the paragraphs and poem below. Given her play this year, I thought that it might be appropriate to reprint that Post for those that missed it.]

“Last Summer, at the time of the U.S. Women’s Open, an Internet headline read “It’s Open Season on Michelle Wie . . .”  The story included the statement that, “school [Stanford] was too much of a distraction for Wie . . . “ In fact, Ms. Wie has had her critics almost from the time she began playing competitive golf more than eleven years ago. Her detractors would have liked her to satisfy their plans. She had her own ideas and has carried them out exceedingly well.

Now that Ms. Wie is graduating from Stanford this month (fairness requires me to admit that long ago I earned two degrees from the university), I thought she deserved poetic recognition for her achievements and best wishes for a great post-graduate career in golf and otherwise.”

  FOR MICHELLE WIE

Michelle Wie, Michelle Wie,
Will your critics ever see,
That a Stanford ed has done for you,
What winning on the tour could  never do.

If you’re a star, the critics said —
Play the game — get ahead,
Full time’s required, if not more;
A degree from Stanford won’t help your score.

But a different scorecard you have kept,
Not just at golf are  you  adept,
Your student days deserves acclaim;
Golf, scholarship and fun have been your game.

But now Degreed, you can roll,
Through tourney gates in your Kia Soul.
Ready to play; give it your all —
Dispatching your critics with an educated ball.

Leon S White, PhD
Stanford, ’58, ‘59

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A Masters Chip for the Ages: Tiger on 16 in 2005

 Tiger's ball at the penultimate moment

 

With Tiger absent from this years Masters, it is a good time to remember one of his most famous Masters shots which he made on the 16th hole in 2005. If you saw it live I would bet that you still remember it. But even for those of you that do and also for those that missed it, I offer my recollection as follows:

♦A Masters Chip for the Ages

From a difficult lie beyond
the steeply sloped sixteenth green

a steely-eyed Tiger sent his ball
to a spot far above the hole,

the ball coming crisply off his wedge,
flew low, bounced once

and rolled on a yard or two
until gravity took over,

causing it to turn sharply,
and start slowly down the slope

towards the hole, speeding up
then slowing again as it got closer.

“All of a sudden,” Tiger’s words,
“it looked really good.”

“How could it not go in?” and
when it stopped, a single turn short,

“How did it not go in?”,
“And all of a sudden it went in.”

It was as if Tiger’s will
had given gravity an assist.

“In your life,” the tower announcer’s voice,
“have you seen anything like that?”

While around him, the patrons’ roar
rose rocket-like, fueled by sheer wonder.

Leon S White, PhD

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Waiting for the Spring Opening of My Golf Course

Chapter 17 001

 

It is about this time of year that frustration sets in if you live in a cold climate area. Spring has arrived once again as an unplayable. Where I live in Massachusetts as I write this, snow still covers half of my backyard and probably half of the local golf course. The Golf Expo has come through town, the few golf emporiums than remain are beckoning with sales and I can still do no better than to practice putting in the playroom.

The poets understood the meaning of Spring to golfers who must wait out its first weeks until the temperatures rise. Clinton Scollard in an epic poem of some 90 stanzas may have said it best more than 90 years ago. In describing the travails of a novice golfer, he concludes with three stanzas that describe the golfer’s anticipation of his second season. (Suggestion: read the three stanzas out loud and slowly; don’t worry about a few strange words; and when you finish read it once more. I guarantee you will enjoy both readings, but especially the second.)

Yes, he can wait until the vernal chord
Softly smitten, and the umbered sward
     Quickens beneath the sun’s renewing fire.
And stripling Spring is Winter’s overlord.

 Then feel his feet the tempting turf once more,
While down the distance floats his ringing “fore!”
     And he is brother to the hale desire
That is of all reviving things the core.

 Others may catch the scattered scrap and shard
Of exultation, but to them is barred
     The keen elation that the Golfer knows
When Spring’s first ball is teed and driven hard.

These last two lines illustrate once again how a poet’s few carefully chosen words can speak so personally to every avid golfer:

     “The keen elation that the Golfer knows
 When Spring’s first ball is teed and driven hard.”

[Clinton Scollard was a prolific writer and poet. For eight years he was a professor of English literature at Hamilton College in New York. The poem (in three Cantos and an Envoy) appears in a book called The Epic of Golf published in 1923. The 17th chapter of my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages includes more verses from Scollard’s poem and a description of the entire poem  ]

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