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Silent Cellphones Welcome at Wyndham Championship

Not This Week!

The August 9th issue of GolfWorld Magazine includes the headline “PGA Tour to give cell phones a listen.” The story relates that this month’s Wyndham Championship (previously called the Greater Greensboro Open) will allow spectators to bring in cell phones. However, the phones must be left in silent mode and calls must be made in designated areas only. As they say on the radio from time to time, “This is a test.” What I say is “Good luck.”

This story allows me to share a poem I wrote a while ago called “Cellphone-itis.”

Cellphone-itis

Before the cell phone came to town
Calls were made with care
Phone booths now have emptied out
The cell is everywhere

Its use has borne an odd disease
Known as cellphone-itis
The symptoms are the opposite
Of simple laryngitis.

To have their voices clearly heard
When calling on a cell
Users seem to be agreed
That they must always yell.

But for their captive listeners
These polluters are no joke
What they add to the environment
Is matched only by second hand smoke.

So now that the ban on cellphones has been lifted, will the PGA Tour consider a ban on on-course smoking?

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Remembering Tom Watson at the 2009 Open

Just after last year’s British Open I wrote a poem to commemorate Tom Watson’s memorable performance. Since then I have revised the poem slightly. You might also enjoy the poem I wrote about Doug Sanders at the 1970 Open.

Watson At Turnberry – The 2009 Open

From the tee at eighteen
He looked down towards the home hole
Like a pitcher with a one run lead looks
Toward home plate needing one more out.

As he drove his ball
We knew what the magic number was.
When the camera showed a safe white speck
We exhaled in unison and counted one.

Now it was an eight iron to the green
Or was it a nine?
A question to be answered twice,
The first time by Watson alone.

He was thinking nine but hit the eight
And as we watched with growing anxiety
The ball bounced hard and rolled too far.
We held our breath and counted two.

Again a choice: to chip or putt.
“One of the best chippers of all time,”
The words of an old pro in the booth.
But the third stroke would be a putt.

From off the green the ball raced up
Then by the hole a good eight feet.
He said he had seen grain.
Down to one, we saw trouble.

Once more a putt to win the Open,
But this was not a kid with a dream
This was a Champion Golfer five times over.
Yet now we feared the worst.

While he took two short practice strokes
We lost interest in counting
And as the ball rolled weakly off his putter
We lost all hope as well.

“I made a lousy putt,” Watson’s words;
“Then it was one bad shot after another.”
A self-stated epitaph marked the close:
“The Old Fogy Almost Did It.”

And so the golf writers lost their story
To an illustrious sage from an earlier time.
It wouldn’t be about Watson winning or losing –
But how he had played the Game.

And did he ever!

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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.

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A Tall Golf Tale in 12 Lines

Edward, Prince of Wales

Edward, Prince of Wales

The following is a tall golf tale in 12 lines told by the English writer, playwright and poet, Reginald Arkell who was introduced in a previous post. This is one of several golf poems Arkell included in his book, Playing the Games, published in 1935.

An Imperfectly True Story

THE favourite child of a millionaire
Was thrown, one day, by a restive mare;

Caught, by her boot, in the snaffle rein,
And dragged in front of a passing train.

A motor-cyclist, who heard her squeals,
Dragged her from under the cruel wheels.

The millionaire, who was deeply impressed,
Cried: “What is the thing you would like the best?”

“You can give me,” replied the chap on the bike,
“A couple of golf clubs, if you like.”

So the millionaire, not to be out-done,
Gave him Walton Heath, Oxhey and Wimbledon.

Looking up Walton Heath, I came across an interesting story.  Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and even later Duke of Windsor) became Captain of the club in 1935. A number of years earlier at the suggestion of Bernard Darwin, he took lessons from James Braid, who was the club’s professional from its beginnings in 1904 until he died in 1950. In 1930 Prince Edward sent a handwritten letter to Braid, accompanied by a scorecard.

Dear Braid,

I am very pleased with this card and hope you are. I was very unlucky at the last hole, as a good second with a spoon pitched in the rough just a few inches over the green, and with the chance of breaking 80 I couldn’t stand the nerve strain and fluffed the chip and took two puts (sic). But it was great fun and I only wish you had been playing round with me. Will phone you one day soon and we must have another game.

Yours sincerely,

Edward.

Which only goes to show that the pressure on the last hole when 79 is possible exempts no one!

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The Serenity of the Golf Course

thrasher_curve_billed

This week’s poem by Bert Leston Taylor was written about 90 years ago. Its title “Far from the M.C.” references a line in Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” Gray’s poem was parodied in two earlier posts.

Taylor, a revered Chicago Tribune columnist, often had one eye on Chicago politics and the other on golf. He was a good friend of “Chick” Evans. The contrast Taylor sketches in the poem between the tranquility of the golf course and rowdiness of politics refers of course to an earlier time. The golf course still offers the possibility of “ecstasy.” Maybe today’s politicians need to play more golf.

FAR FROM THE M.C.

The Thrasher, on a leafless bough
High in a maple tree,
Pours forth, as only he knows how,
A song of ecstasy.

The sunbeams thro’ the branches sift
Upon the putting green,
Aloft the fleecy cloudlets drift,
The morning is serene.

In town strong men are in the heat
Of party politics;
The air is filled with “Lie” and “Cheat,”
And other verbal tricks.

The thrasher sings for song’s own sake;
I share his ecstasy.
I have a longish putt to make,
And hole it for a three.

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Be a Happy Golfer; Just Play and Have Fun

The-Happy-Golfer

Here is a list of golf books that you might consider to help you improve your game:

The Happy Golfer by H. Leach
Advanced Golf by J. Braid
How to Play Golf by H. Vardon
Golf Faults Illustrated by J. H. Taylor
Golf for the Late Beginner by Henry Hughes
The Golfer’s Pocket Tip Book by G. D. Fox
Modern Golf by P. A. Vaile
Success at Golf by H. Vardon, F. Ouimet, and others.

Though their titles look current, these books were included in an advertisement in the September 1914 issue of the magazine Golf/USGA Bulletin. The first golf instruction book published in the U.S., Golf in America: A Practical Manual, by James Lee, appeared in 1895.

 Of course, if instruction books don’t help enough, you can always take lessons from a Professional. And neither lessons or books will help much if you don’t practice. But then Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers tells us that 10,000 hours or more or practice are needed to excel. What to do? [Read more…]

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Footnote: Gray’s “Elegy” Inspired a Second Golf Parody

Could there be more than one golf parody of Gray’s “Elegy?” Surprisingly, the answer is yes, and, therefore, a “footnote” to this week’s Post. (And being a footnote, it is not required reading.) [Read more…]

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Politics, Golf Courses and the 1913 British Open

 
suffragettes

 

Frustration is a feeling that is familiar to all golfers. The following is a story of political frustration that spilled over to golf. 

In England, starting in 1866, a women’s movement known as the suffragists began working for the vote. In 1903, a violent offshoot of this movement, called the “suffragettes,” instituted militant means to force the issue. One of their tactics was to destroy the turf at golf courses. It was reported in the May 1913 issue of The American Golfer “that if they could manage it, the ‘wild women,’ as they are being called, meant to do some considerable harm to the [Royal Liverpool Club] and interfere as far as they could with the success of what is expected to be the biggest championship meeting that has ever taken place.”

[Read more…]

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Another Golf Season Begins

 

augusta

 

Poems don’t need to be long to be moving. In fact, often the brevity of a poem is what gives it impact. But good short poems are not like short putts; they are not that easy to make.

Last week The Masters officially ushered in spring for those of us who live where the seasons still exist. The pictures of Augusta National on television almost called for a poem. Four lines by Joyce Kilmer, with one obvious change, might fill the bill. (Kilmer is most famous for his poem “Trees.”)

[Read more…]

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