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The Poetry of Match Play

The following is the one of the closest links between golf and poetry that I have ever found. The story and poem appeared in the November 1913 issue of The American Golfer.

“Two Californians, Dr. Walter S. Power and Mr. Mark Sibley Severance, “a well known author and an ardent golfer” finished a match all even. The following day Dr. Power sent Mr. Severance a challenge “couched in a rather indifferent rhyme.” Here is Mr. Severance’s reply.

ESCULAPIUS ON THE LINKS

If I’d known I was meeting a poet
Instead of a golfer at play,
I’d have journeyed all ready to “go it”
With far different tools for the fray.

For instead of my driver and brassie
(Twin friends on the grass-covered green)
My putter and niblick so classy,
My cleek with its true Samson sheen,

I’d have filled up may bag with blank verses
With lots of poetical fire,
And a pretty assortment of curses
As befits a golf maniac’s ire;

With Tennyson, Browning and Johnson,
With Longfellow, Shelley and Keats,
Every rhymer that ever wore pants on,
And Shakespeare, who never repeats.

And then when this medical stripling
Was swinging so gay and so tall,
I’d have chucked him a fragment of Kipling
To jostle his eye from the ball.

Or else, when I heard him cry “Fore, Sir”
(His heart beating loud ‘neath his shirt”),
I’d have hurled him a chunk of old Chaucer
And down he’d have come in the dirt.

Here’s the moral I bet all my cash on
(‘Twill serve when the outlook is black):
If you can’t beat a chap in one fashion,
Just try on another attack.

Mr. Severance was clearly making use of his Harvard education (class of 1869). “Esculapius” was an ancient Roman god of medicine and healing.

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