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Golf Gods and Goddesses and a New Year Ode

Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman, in his best selling book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, includes the following formula:  Success = Talent + Luck. In golf, the player contributes the talent, but what about luck?

These days luck, good or bad, is often attributed to “the golf gods.” These gods go nameless and as far as I can tell influence the success of all golfers regardless of talent level. In a few cases, lapses in talent are also attributed to the golf gods: for example, from Golf.com in June 2011 — “[Tiger's] latest setback seems like the golf gods kicking a guy when he’s down.”

During earlier times, at least in Scotland, luck was the province of golf goddesses, not gods. We know this from the poetry of the time. From the first book solely about golf, The Goff, published first in 1743, the author, Thomas Mathison, pleads,

‘O thou GOLFINIA, Goddess of these plains,
Great Patroness of GOFF, indulge my strains;

A second goddess, Golfina, appears in John Kerr’s book, The Golf-Book of East Lothian (1896),

“Then, clad in white, and wearing a gutta-percha crown, tipped with golden balls, her sceptre a long spoon, entered the fair Golfina, Goddess of the Royal and Ancient Game, . . .”

The goddess Golfina is also the subject of a poem by Robert K. Risk that appeared in his book, Songs of the Links published in 1919.

       TO GOLFINA

A New Year Ode
Above the clubhouse portal
Crowned with green turf she stands,
Who gathers all men mortal
In sacrificial bands;
.        Her iron face is sweeter
.        Than Love’s, who fears to meet her,
.        To men who daily greet her
With supplicating hands.

She waits for each and other,
She waits for all men born,
Who straight forget their mother,
Their sins, their wives forlorn;
.        Their food they swiftly swallow,
.        Take wing for her and follow
.        O’er hedge, and hill, and hollow,
Till eve from early morn.

Forgetting loves that wither,
Desks, Pulpits, Stocks, and Rings,
Forgetting bores who blither,
And all disastrous things;
.        We may have done some task illk
.        Been cheated by a rascal,
.        But let us tee a Haskell,
And debts and duns take wings.

Golfina may send sorrow—
Six down and five to play—
But we will win to-morrow,
Which is another day;
.        Though we have lost a fiver,
.        Or broken our pet driver
.        Golfina bates no stiver
The homage we must pay.

From enervated putting,
From topping on the tee,
Perpetual tut-tutting
At things which should not be,
.        Miscalculated pitches
.        That land us deep in ditches,
.        New golf-books that bewitch us,
Golfina, set us free!

I have not been able to determine the relationship between Golfinia and Golfina. Any ideas?

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