The Poet Laureate of St Andrews

George Fullerton Carnegie was born near St. Andrews, Scotland in 1800.  In 1833 he privately published a small book of poetry called Golfiana. The first edition included three poems, the first, “Address to St. Andrews” and third, “The First Hole at St. Andrews on a Crowded Day.”

Carnegie, who could be described as the poet laureate of St. Andrews in his time, had a passion for golf which continued to his death in 1851. In his later years he was a friend of Tom Morris. This is how Carnegie, a short man, described himself:

That little man that’s seated on the ground
In red, must be Carnegie. I’ll be bound.
A most conceited dog, not slow to go it
At golf, or anything a sort of poet.

In 1842, a third edition of Golfiana was published that included another poem about St. Andrews called “Another Peep at the Links.” The last stanza of this poem might be described as Carnegie’s final tribute to the course he loved.

And now farewell! I am the worse for wear—
Grey is my jacket, growing grey my hair!
And, though my play is pretty much the same,
Mine is, at best, a despicable game.
But still I like it—still delight to sing
Club, players, caddies, balls, everything.
But all that’s bright must fade! and we who play,
Like those before us, soon must pass away;
Yet it requires no prophet’s skill to trace
The royal game thro’ each succeeding race;
While on the tide of generations flows,
It still shall bloom, a never-fading rose:
And still St. Andrews Links, with flags unfurl’d,
Shall peerless reign, and challenge all the world!

Though written long ago, this is the St. Andrew Links that will yet again soon host another Open Championship.


Golf Controversies

In two Posts earlier this year, “A Poetic Response to the Rise of Medal Play in 1912” and “More Match Play Poetry,” I wrote about the controversy regarding the switch to medal play that occurred around the turn of the 20th century. In the beginning players who competed on the basis of score were scorned. Apparently, the poetic upset with the “score-keeping man” goes back even earlier. Here are eight lines of derision written by Patrick O. Macdonald (he certainly had the right name). The verses appeared in the magazine Golf in 1898.

The Real Golfer plays his man,
And not a computation;
He licks his partner if he can,
And not the whole creation.

That wretched new score-keeping man,
Whose Golf’s a calculation:
Kick him, ye golfers, if you can,
He’s an abomination.

You may be aware that Jim Hyler, the new USGA president, is promoting more environmentally sustainable golf course maintenance practices. Maybe he should advocate a return to match play as well. Think of all the trees that would be saved from becoming score cards!


After a Foozle, Remember…

There are lots of things to remember when playing a round of golf. Maybe the most important is that golf is a game in which you must only pretend seriousness. It is not an easy lesson to learn. And yet we all want to play as well as we can. So we are forever trying to bring to mind the right tip or the right thought at the right time.

I wrote a Twine (a two line golf poem for Twitter) a while ago that dealt with some of this,

Ubiquitous Golf Instruction Twine: A thousand tips from Jan to December/ But when you need one, will you remember?

As my golf has improved over the years, I try to think less, relying more on ingrained basics. Yet there are a few maxims that I do keep in mind. One is embodied in the following four lines:


When a golf shot turns out wrong,
The foozle leaves you feeling low.
That’s the time to recall the line:
Don’t hit two bad shots in a row.



A Third Vardon Achieves Fame

The second Vardon, Tom

Joe DiMaggio had a brother named Dom. Harry Vardon had a brother named Tom. There was a third DiMaggio, another brother named Vince. And there was a third Vardon, but not another brother. This Vardon was featured in a paragraph on p. 116 of the August 1910 issue of the magazine Golf.

In the annual match between Brantford Golf and Country Club (Ontario) and the Galt and Waterloo Golf and Country club, July 1st, Dr. Vardon, who was playing last on the Galt team, drove the last hole, the ninth, and holed out in one. Dr. Vardon, a very popular physician in active practice, is over seventy, and weighs ninety -eight pounds—proving brains can always hold its own against mere brawn.

W. Hastings Webling, a Canadian writer and poet, who was playing for Brantford, wrote the following verses to commemorate the occasion,

The world of golf knows very well
Two Vardons on this earth do dwell.
But soon ’twill waken with surprise
To see another Vardon rise.

‘Tis Doctor Vardon, active still,
For age stands servient to his will,
Who looms aloft for all to see
A hero, in true modesty.

His years are many, light his weight;
He weighs, in fact, but ninety-eight.
Yet what of that, his drive sublime
Will stand the test of endless time.

So long as “Galt and Waterloo”
To golf and to themselves prove true,
So long will Doctor Vardon shine—
The man who’s drive “holed out” at “nine”!

Unfortunately, Dr. Vardon’s surname appears lost to history.

Baseball footnote:  Vince DiMaggio was the oldest of the three brothers. During his baseball career he played for several National League teams, starting with the Boston Bees in 1937. I will always remember Vince for the “tape measure”  home run he hit to the right of the clock atop the left field wall as a member of Oakland Oaks in 1948.  The home run capped a ninth inning rally of seven runs giving the Oaks an 8 to 6 victory over a rival Pacific Coast League team whose name is also lost to history. I should also mention that the Oaks that year under Casey Stengel won their first pennant since 1927.

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