Michelle Wie and other Clerihews

E. C. Bentley

Clerihews are four line poems in the form aabb, were the first two lines rhyme as do lines three and four. Furthermore, the first line of a Clerihew begins or ends with a person’s name and the poem focuses on some aspect of his or her life. Of course, there can be variations of this idea. As I explained in an earlier Post, Clerihews are named for their inventor, Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875 -1956), an English journalist and writer.

As examples, here are a few Clerihews that I wrote:

Harvey Penick

Harvey Penick
(Rhymes with scenic)
His claim to fame:
“Take dead aim.”

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus (the Golden Bear)
Pudgy in profile with blondish hair
Left opponents in the dust
With his putting, most robust.

Vardon, Taylor and Braid

Vardon, Taylor and Braid
“The great Triumvirate” so portrayed
In tournaments, to their competitors’ chagrin
One of the three would usually win.

Miclelle Wie

Michelle Wie
May still want to see
If there is a chance
To beat pros who wear pants.

If you are so inclined, try your hand at writing a golf Clerihew and leave it as a comment below.


Golf History, Golf Poetry and the Making of the Featherie

A Featherie Ball

For many American golfers, the history of golf begins with the 1913 U.S. Open won in a playoff by Francis Ouimet over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. The author Mark Frost marks this event as “the birth of Modern Golf” in his bookThe Greatest Game Ever Played. But what about the birth of the game? To get a better idea as to the origins of golf and its early history I would suggest a book called A Swing Through Time — Golf in Scotland 1457-1744 by Olive M Geddes (revised edition published in 2007).  Quoting from the book’s introduction,

This book takes a close look at the earliest written records of golf in Scotland, from the 1457 Act of Parliament banning the game to the first ‘Rules’ of golf — the ‘Articles and Law’ of 1744 drawn up by the Company of Gentlemen Golfers for the competition for the Silver Cup played over Leith Links.

Interestingly, some of these “written records” were recorded in verse. For example, Ms. Geddes devotes a chapter to a discussion of the first book entirely devoted to golf, called The Goff, first published in 1743. It was a mock-heroic epic poem, 358 lines long, written by an Edinburgh lawyer (who later became a Minister) named Thomas Mathison.  A second edition was published in 1763 and a third 30 years later. In 1981 the United States Golf Association published facsimiles of all three editions under one cover in a limited edition of 1400 copies. One of few surviving third edition copes was sold for $80,500 in 1998.

The Goff tells the story of a golf match on the Leith Links played between Castalio and Pygmalion, the heroic combatants of the tale. But the poem also makes reference to some golf related activities of the time. In one interesting section of eight lines, Mathison describes in some detail how featherie golf balls were made:

The work of Bobson; who with matchless art
Shapes the firm hide, connecting ev’ry part,”
Then in a socket sets the well-stitch’d void,
And thro’ the eyelet drives the downy tide;
Crowds urging crowds the forceful brogue impels,
The feathers harden and the Leather swells;
He crams and sweats, yet crams and urges more,
Till scarce the turgid globe contains its store.

Ms. Geddes remarks that “Bobson” probably referred to a St. Andrews ball-maker named Robertson (likely an ancestor of Davie and Allen Robertson). The implication is that although balls were made in Leith at the time, the best balls came from St. Andrews. (Featherie balls dated back to 1618 and were only replaced by Gutta-Percha balls in 1848!) I hope that those of you who might be interested in golf’s early history will have the opportunity to consult A Swing Through Time.


Ted Ray’s Golf Swing


The question “What’s wrong with his/her golf swing?”  is often answered today by looking at slow motion video. But the question goes back long before video analysis. It was raised with regard to Ted Ray’s swing shortly after he had participated in the famous 1913 U.S. Open won by Francis Ouimet.

The November 1913 issue of The American Golfer included the following short item titled “Ray’s ‘Sway'”:

Ray comes to us with the reputation of swaying on his up-stroke. Ray does not sway—and we have observed him very closely. What he does is this: Just after the backswing starts the weight is transferred to the right leg; then, about half way up the swing the left shoulder is dropped more or less—a movement in contradistinction to, and offsetting, the first, but to the uninitiated eye, giving every appearance of a sway. The first puts the body weight where it properly belongs—back of the ball—the second enables the arms to complete the upswing. The bending of the knees, more especially the right one, outwardly, creates the false impression of a body sway. It is a sort of leaning in to the ball. Not “according to Hoyle” perhaps, but mighty effective—in Ray’s case.

If you didn’t know, you would have thought that Johnny Miller wrote this! But this was a note in a 1913 golf magazine. And so, not unexpectedly, a short poem was also included:


Oh! tell us Teddy—Teddy Ray,
Tell us truly, we do pray—
If as some are wont to say,
You do really, really sway.

We ourselves incline that way;
But that is not the proper way,
Our friends inform us day by day
When at the 19th hole we pay.


Does Ray sway?
Ray does not sway.
He leans; which means
Ray does not sway.

Ray was known for his portly build and prodigious length off the tee, though his ball often landed in awful lies. His recovery powers were said to be phenomenal and cartoonists usually caricatured him with a niblick in hand, festooned with clumps of heather and saplings, with an inseparable pipe clamped between his teeth. During his career he won the 1912 British Open and the 1920 U.S. Open.


Casey, Tiger and Two New Seasons

A while ago I wrote a parody on the poem “Casey at the Bat” by Earnest Thayer called “Tiger on the Mat.” When I wrote the poem I naively believed that everyone knew the original, but sadly I was wrong. Now with baseball season beginning and Tiger returning, I thought I would give golf/baseball fans another chance to read (better yet recite) one of the greatest sports poems ever written.  In addition, I found a poem by Gantland Rice written in response to a fan who had never heard of the Casey poem. Rice whose golf poems have appeared several times in my Blog, gives you an idea of how engaging sports poetry can be in his response to the “cove who never heard of “Casey at the Bat.”

So, given this momentous week, Go Red Sox, and yes, Go Tiger.  I hope they both look better this November than last.

He Never Heard of Casey!by Grantland Rice ©
Published: New York Herald Tribune (06-01-1926)
I knew a cove who’d never heard of Washington and Lee,
Of Caesar and Napoleon from the ancient jamboree,
But, bli’me, there are queerer things than anything like that,
For here’s a cove who never heard of “Casey at the Bat”!

He never heard of Mudville and its wild and eerie call,
“When Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,”
For the stormy roar of welcome that “recoiled upon the flat
As Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.”

“There was easy in Casey’s manner,” from the Ernest Thayer style,
“There was pride in Casey’s bearing,” and his tanned face wore a smile,
And when they thundered “Attaboy!” of course he tipped his hat,
But here’s a cove who never heard of “Casey at the Bat”!

“Who is Casey?” Can you beat it? Can a thing like this be true?
Is there one who’s missed the drama that ripped Mudville through and through?
Is there a fan with soul so dead he never felt the sway
Of these famous lines by Thayer in the good old Thayer way?

“Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded as he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance gleamed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.”

The drama grew in force and flame, and Berserk went the mob,
With Casey representing more than Hornsby, Ruth, or Cobb;
And as the pitcher cut one loose as if fired from a gat –
Say, here’s a guy who never heard of “Casey at the Bat!”

“The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.”
And as the pitcher shot one through to meet the final test
There’s one low and benighted fan who never heard the rest.

Ten million never heard of Keats, or Shelley, Burns, or Poe;
But they know “the air was shattered by the force of Casey’s blow”;
They never heard of Shakespeare, nor of Dickens, like as not,
But they know the somber drama from old Mudville’s haunted lot.

He never heard of Casey! Am I dreaming? Is it true?
Is fame but wind-blown ashes when the summer day is through?
Does greatness fade so quickly and is grandeur doomed to die
That bloomed in early morning, ere the dusk rides down the sky?

Is there nothing left immortal in this somber vale called Earth?
Is there nothing that’s enduring in its guarding shell of worth?
Is everything forgotten as the new age stumbles on
And the things that we once cherished make their way to helengon?

Is drifting life but dust and dreams to fade within a flash,
Where one forgets the drama of the Master and the Ash?
Where one has missed the saga with its misty flow of tears,
Upon that day of tragedy beyond the trampling years?

“Oh! Somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out!”

Rise, De Wolf Hopper, in your wrath, and cut the blighter down!
Although Wang may be forgotten in the passing of renown,
There’s a grave crime committed which should take you to the mat,
For here’s a cove who never heard of “Casey at the Bat”!

I had an epic written which I thought would never die,
Where they’d build a statue for me with its head against the sky;
I said “This will live forever” – but I’ve canned it in the vat,
For here’s a guy who never heard of “Casey at the Bat”!

He Never Heard of Casey! by Grantland Rice ©
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