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A Golf Poem from “Opposites in Golf”

A few months ago I  published a new book of 32 poems called Opposites in Golf – Portrayed in Poetry as Opposed to Prose. The inspiration for this collection came from several poetry books written by the Pulitzer Prize winning American poet, Richard Wilber. In his books, Mr. Wilber drew on examples from the entire English language. The poems I wrote focus on opposites related to common golf terms and expressions: fairway and rough, chip and pitch, draw and fade, etc. The idea behind the book was to give you, the reader, a unique hour of golfing entertainment. Createspace, a subsidiary of Amazon, published the book so it is available at Amazon books here and in Europe (and maybe beyond). The U.S. price is $4.50. The equivalent price in Great Britain and Euro-countries may now be slightly less.

In order to interest my Blog readers in the book, I have decided to offer a sampling of its contents starting with this post and continuing for several more. I have had a lot of fun writing these verses; now,I hope you will share that enjoyment as you read them.

 

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HOOKS AND SLICES

What is the opposite of hook?
Eye you say with a fishy look.
Fish reminds of hook and line,
Then bait’s the answer to assign.

 A hook is also a cager’s shot;
A jumper might oppose or not.
But with golf, what the duffer fears –
Get rid of a hook and a slice appears.

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Oakmont, W.C. Townes and a Missing Poem “Found”

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W.C. Fownes

The Oakmont Country Club, site of this year’s United States Open, has a long and colorful history. It was designed and built in 1903 by a Pittsburgh industrialist, Henry Clay Fownes. But Fownes, apparently anticipating longer balls and better clubs, laid out an extremely difficult, bunker-laden course. Henry, known as “H.C.” and his son William Clark Fownes, Jr., named for his uncle and known as “W.C.”, who together managed the course,were determined to make even the best golfers work hard to make pars, let alone birdies.

Two tales, one apocryphal and the other true, illustrate the role the W.C. played in keeping Oakmont on the edge. The two stories also mark two different time periods, the first in 1915 when poetry was often used to poke fun at something or somebody; the second in 1945, when a poetic opportunity was missed for lack of a verse writer.

The first story was told in verse at first banquet hosted by members of the Midiron Club on February 2, 1915 at the Hotel Schenley in Pittsburgh. The club itself consisted of 25 members, officials from local clubs including both H.C. and W.C. The banquet brought together “four hundred of the country’s most noted golfers and sportsmen, many of who had journeyed from far distant points to be present at the festal board.” The quote is from an article in the February 1915 issue of Golf Illustrated and Outdoor America.  The article goes on to describe a raucous evening of entertainment by the members, including the following song to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” which included these final seven line,

We may be short on science
  As we stand upon the tee,
And dig a thousand divots
  As we wander o’er the lea,’’
But when it comes to singing
  We’ve got bogey up a tree,
As the Midiron marches on.

After the song, some members of the club put on a skit. (Not ever being a member of a private club, I cannot comment on current practice.) The setting was “The Tom Morris Golf School.” The skit took the form of a question and answer session in which one of the members, W. H. Duff, a prominent Pittsburgh lawyer, played the role of the teacher. The script begins with the first of the two stories I referenced above, the one told in verse,

“Teacher: Willie Costin (another member), have you any criticism to make of the Oakmont Country Club?

Pupil: You bet I have and it is in poetry. Here it is:

Bill Fownes stood by a green one day,
When someone holed in four;
“I’ll put a stop to that,” said he,
“I’ll build two bunkers more.”
And sure enough he build them both,
Where they could sure be seen;
The first one right before the tee,
The other on the green.”

So W.C.’s reputation as a bunker builder was well established in the Club’s early years.

Fast forward to 1945 when Oakmont hosted a World War II Bond exhibition match. In a practice round, Sam Snead, one of the star attractions, discovered an alternate route to No. 7 and hit his tee shot to the right. He ended up making a birdie. The next day, satisfied with his ploy, he hit the same drive again and much to his surprise found his ball in a brand-new bunker. He made a bogey. It turned out that the superintendent had called W.C. and W.C. had ordered a new bunker to be built before daybreak. A great story, just waiting for a poet’s touch.

It’s now 71 years later, but I can’t resist a try at filling in that blank.

W.C.’s Revenge

In ‘45
At an Oakmont match,
The Slammer saw the light;
At the 7th a bird,
Routine shots deferred,
Instead a drive to the right.

The next day Snead
Again aimed right
And hit his drive but then;
The exact same shot
In a sand trap caught,
W.C. had struck again.

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New Book: Opposites in Golf – Portrayed in Poetry as Opposed to Prose

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For me, poetry is a lot about having fun with words and ideas. That is how I would describe my new book, Opposites in Golf, which consists of a series of 32 poems where each takes a golf related term and uses rhyme and reason to search for its opposite. Here is an example from the book,

HOME AND AWAY

The opposite of away is home;
That wouldn’t crack a putter’s dome.
But if you’re away and in a match,
Then I would say there is a catch.
You putt first and so recast,
The opposite of away is last.

The poetry is simple, funny and wise and turns the language of golf on its head. It’s meant for golf enthusiasts looking for a different but rewarding and unique golf-related experience. Just the antidote for a bad shot or a bad round. The book is small enough to stick in a golf bag, but smart enough not to be left there.

Opposites in Golf is now available on Amazon, Amazon in the United Kingdom,  Amazon France, and other European countries. It sells for $4.50. Please take a look for the fun of it.

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If Golf Balls Could Talk

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I woke up this morning before the alarm rang and pretty quickly arranged the following four lines in my mind:

If golf balls could talk
What would they say?
That might depend on
Who put them in play.

So I quietly got up, left my still sleeping wife and headed for my study. In the next hour or so I pretty much completed the poem below. Now I can get my mind back on track and read today’s New York Times.

IF GOLF BALLS COULD TALK

If golf balls could talk
What would they say?
That might depend on
Who put them in play.

Jordan’s ball
Might explicate
On why all the pleading
When it’s too late.

Nicklaus’s ball
Might just tweet
‘Bout the good old days
When it couldn’t be beat.

Michelle’s ball
Might take a chance
And comment on
Her putting stance.

Tiger’s ball
Might make no sound
It’s bored after all
From sitting around.

Michelson’s ball
Might try to lay claim
To Lefty’s success
In his brilliant short game.

Tom Watson’s ball
Might talk a ton
‘Bout the five British Opens
The Champion Golfer won.

And,

Bubba’s ball
Might just complain
That it never goes straight
And is always in pain.

So,

What about your ball,
What about mine?
They might just keep silent
And that would be fine.

Leon S White, PhD

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A Poetic Response to the Question: What is Golf?

 

Everyone has their own answer to the question “What is golf?” Here is mine, taken from my Ebook “If Only I Could Play that Hole Again.”

     ON COURSE

Golf is a singular way
to take temporary leave
following a zigzag path
in search of a small white ball;

to abandon reality,
but stay the course,
hole after hole;

to create a new story,
always different
to be told to someone
before it’s forgotten.

An extraordinary chance
to pretend for a brief time
no matter how unskilled
that each stroke will be flawless;

to endure the pain of failure
without really failing,
and even if only once a round,

to truly enjoy
the pure pleasure
of hitting the ball rock-solid
or sinking a long tricky putt.

Leon S White, PhD

 

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Since Tiger Woods has retreated from PGA Tour events, golf “scholars,” have offered Tiger a wide array of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” to bring him back to championship form. Some have suggested that Tiger is finished as a front runner. As I have remarked in other Posts, maybe 100 years ago, situations like Tiger’s would be commented on not only in prose, but also in poetry. Since I am currently the (self-appointed) resident golf poet, here is my contribution regarding Tiger’s troubles:

Tiger Should or Shouldn’t

The ailing failing Tiger Woods
Is being hounded by the “shoulds”

 Should do this, should do that
To get away from where he’s at.

He should Harmon-ize again,
But this is now and that was then.

He should get his head on straight,
It’s not his swing, let’s not conflate.

Tiger Woods should come alive,
Else golfing revenues take a dive.

The “shouldn’t” folks are out there too
Telling Woods what not to do.

He shouldn’t bulk up quite so much,
It’s causing him to lose his touch.

He shouldn’t listen to any coach
Trusting instead in his own approach.

Or maybe Tiger shouldn’t care
And just move his glutes to a rocking chair.

But I’m bettin’ when Tiger comes back
He won’t look like any hack.

Leon S White, PhD

And for those who would like to practice their oral poetry reading skills,

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In my last Post (just below) I offered readers like you the chance to experience the fun of reading a poem (in this case a golf poem) out loud. To begin, I suggested reading the first stanza of a classic golf poem called “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A. Guest. I included a recording of my reading of the stanza, which offered the opportunity to read the stanza along with me.

Now we move on to the whole poem. It is included below and is followed by my recording. If you are inclined, try reading the poem along with me. If you would like to comment on the experience I would appreciate the feedback. But the main thing is to enjoy the experience.

The Lay for the Troubled Golfer

By Edgar A. Guest

 His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—
An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!

“I’ve dreamed my dreams of the ‘seventy men,’ and I’ve worked year after year,
I have vowed I would stand with the chosen few ere the end of my golf career;
I’ve cherished the thought of a seventy score, and the days have come and gone
And I’ve never been close to the golden goal my heart was set upon.
But today I stood on the eighteenth tee and counted that score of mine,
And my pulses raced with the thrill of joy—I’d a five for a seventy-nine!

“I can kick the ball from the eighteenth tee and get this hole in five,
But I took the wood and I tried to cross that ditch with a mighty drive—”
Let us end the quotes, it is best for all to imagine his language rich,
But he topped that ball, as we often do, and the pill stopped in the ditch.
His third was short and his fourth was bad and his fifth was off the line,
And he took an eight on the eighteenth hole with a five for a seventy-nine.

 I gathered his clubs and I took his arm and alone in the locker room
I left him sitting upon the bench, a picture of grief and gloom;
And the last man came and took his shower and hurried upon his way,
But still he sat with his head bowed down like one with a mind astray,
And he counted his score card o’er and o’er and muttered this doleful whine:
“I took an eight on the eighteenth hole, with a five for a seventy-nine!”

 

Here is my recording of the poem. Just click on the sideways diamond. And don’t worry about perfection, just recite and have fun. It’s a great poem to read out loud.

 

If you have time, please leave a comment. Thanks.

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Reading Golf Poetry Out Loud

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It’s a new year so, let’s try something new and different.

The fun of reading golf poetry out loud is something that I have emphasized on this Blog. Now we are going to put this idea to the test – that is, with your help.

When talking to groups about golf poetry, I always have them participate by reading a poem out loud along with me. So I thought – why don’t I try that with you as well. So this is what we are going to do. Let’s take the poem I always use, “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer” by Edgar A Guest and begin by just considering the first stanza. (In the next Post we will read the whole poem.)

I have recorded the first stanza as you can see below. So, if you like you can listen to my reading first.

Note: If you are looking at this post on my website then just click on the triangle at the left side of the audio bar. However, if you are reading the Post on email, then you will have to switch to my website at https://golfpoet.com/2015/01/06/reading-golf-poetry-out-loud-2/ to be able to follow the poem text while I’m reading it.

After your first reading, you can either read along with me the second time or just read out loud by yourself. Either way I hope that you conclude, as I have, that reading out loud adds to the fun of reading golf poetry. (Note: for those of you who do not use English regularly, consider this an opportunity to practice speaking.)

Here, then is the first stanza of “The Lay for the Troubled Golfer.”

His eye was wild and his face was taut with anger and hate and rage,
And the things he muttered were much too strong for the ink of the printed page.
I found him there when the dusk came down, in his golf clothes still was he,
And his clubs were strewn around his feet as he told his grief to me:
“I’d an easy five for a seventy-nine—in sight of the golden goal—
An easy five and I took an eight—an eight on the eighteenth hole!

 

And below is my reading:

 

Remember if you want to continue and read the whole poem out loud look out for the next Post that will be coming soon.

 

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From “Golf Illustrated” January 5, 1900 New Year’s Greetings

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This is from page 3 of the British magazine Golf Illustrated 115 years ago:

A gude New Year an’ health an’ cheer,
Tae ilka gowfin’ loon,
An’ may we steer o’ hazards clear,
In life and gowf each roun’.

Translation:

A good New Year and health and cheer,
To every golfing loon,
And may we steer of hazards clear,
In life and golf each round.

(Clearly, the original is better!)

 

The verse was followed by the statement: “Another round in the great game of life has now commenced. Let us hope that 1900 will have fewer bunkers in store for us than 1899.” This was followed by a second statement referring to the 2nd Boer War:

“Ring out the Old, Ring in the New!” seems to be a singularly appropriate sentiment this particular New Year time. We have a long and heavy score to wipe off in South Africa before we can settle down in peace and comfort of mind to our ordinary avocations.

I wonder what the magazine editors wrote at the beginning of 1914.

In any case, I wish you and all the readers of this Blog a happy and peaceful New Year.

 

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December Golf

 

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My apologies for being slow to put out a new post. I have been battling the flu for a while (even though I dutifully got my flu-shot last October). I am finally starting the feel better and put together what is now my annual four-liner bemoaning Winter. Nothing new, just another observation on what separates golfers who are warmer and from those who are colder at this time of year.

DECEMBER GOLF

Golf in December, a delight for those
Not burdened by four layers of clothes;

Advice or tips no matter the source,
Of little use on a snow-covered course.

 
Two other comments. For the golfer who has everything and is interested in the history and literature of the game, please consider my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages, available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/11b2H2k) and other web bookstore locations

Also next year, if I can figure out how to do it, we will be reciting some poetry together. In this way I hope to encourage you to read poetry out loud.

Finally, I would like to wish my readers from over 120 countries a very happy holiday season and lower scores next year. Thank you for coming back to read golf poetry from time to time. There are more than 160 poems about golf on the pages of this Blog. When you have time explore a little using search words. The top 10 are fine, but there’s a lot more.

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