The cartoon above dates from 1928 and the caption has the caddie saying: “‘Ave yer finished with the links for today, Sir?” Sir is stomping off, clubs and caddie abandoned, radiating rage from every pore.
Every golfer, at whatever level, has to learn to cope with the frustrations of a game where the ball sits there waiting for you to hit it. There’s no opponent trying to kick it or hit it out of your way; no one trying to send you flying with a big hit, sorry, tackle; it’s just you and a ball, sitting there waiting quietly for you to do your best/worst. Easy-peasy. No problem…..
As every golfer knows, it’s not quite as easy as it sounds and Eddie Pepperell, an affable Englishman who’s still just in the top 50 in the world as I write, had some sort of meltdown at the Turkish Airlines Open last week. I don’t think he’s written one of his entertaining, thought-provoking blogs about the incident yet but he put four or five balls in the water, then walked off, saying he’d run out of balls. His partners Martin Kaymer and George Coetzee were gobsmacked and Pepperell was DQd for not completing the hole and the round.
Yesterday, the R&A tweeted a picture of the finalists in the 2009 Boys Amateur, who now have seven professional wins between them. Tom Lewis beat Pepperell 5 and 4 and the tweet asked: “Who would win now?” Pepperell, having recovered his humour and, with luck, his equilibrium, replied: “Probably Tom as I still have no balls.”
Dai, my late husband, had his moments on the golf course but the most memorable were mostly of the volcanic variety. Some of his former colleagues have some hair-raising tales, including behaviour the man himself would have excoriated as appalling: stomping off the course without finishing out or shaking hands, heading straight for the car – not the bar – and roaring off.
On one memorable occasion, at Whittington, Dai’s temper didn’t make it as far as the 1st green. Our 1st is a hole he used to call “the easiest par 5 in the country” and he invariably, inevitably, took at least six. This time he hit two crackers just short of the green and, for reasons best known to himself, took out a horrible, deep-faced, heavy-headed wedge that he’d liberated, again for reasons best known to himself, from the dark recesses of a friend’s garage.
The ground was wet, Dai duffed the ball into the dip in front of the green, considered the situation briefly, then let out a roar as he raised the club above his head and speared it with all his might into the sodden turf. As the head buried itself well en route down under, the shaft broke in half and the bit with the grip went spinning off towards the rough, with the bit in the ground vibrating wildly. My beloved’s temper was not helped when he saw me in a stomach-clutching, shoulder-heaving heap on the ground.
It took him some time to extricate the buried bit because it was hard to get a grip of the shattered, spiky-edged half of shaft but he managed it and hurled the two pieces into the trees behind the green never to darken his golf bag again.You may not have seen the comment from Des O’Reilly on Maureen’s post about our golf at Portrush and it bears repeating here. Mention of Lilian Starrett (nee Malone) brought the memories flooding back. “I remember my first introduction to Lilian at the Hermitage Scratch Cup (circa 1978),” Des said. “As a starry-eyed new boyfriend, I was cadddying for Therese [Des’s late wife, the incomparable Tiny], who thought Lilian was ‘great craic’.
“She was warm and friendly until after a couple of poor shots on the 6th or 7th hole she turned to her clubs and caddy car and quietly but with intent beat the living daylights out of both with a 4-iron. This scared the living daylights out of me. I never uttered a word for the entire rest of the day! In fact, it took a good few years before I felt at ease in the company of ‘the Starrett’!…..”
Not long after writing this, Des received a phone call from a woman puporting to be a solicitor ringing on behalf of said Starrett, mentioning defamation, libel and the like. It was, of course, Lil, insisting that she was a reformed character and would be battering her new TaylorMades only on the practice ground.
Even the sainted Bob(by) Jones had to learn how to curb a fiery temper. Famously, the man who received the freedom of the Burgh of St Andrews in 1958, picked up his ball and tore up his scorecard in the third round of his first (British) Open, at St Andrews, in 1921, describing it later as “the most inglorious failure of my golfing life”. He did win the Open on the Old Course in 1927 and the Amateur there in 1930, the year of his Impregnable Quadrilateral that also included the Open, the US Amateur and the US Open.
Jones also had an inglorious moment at the US Open in 1920. As a precocious 18-year old paired with the venerable Harry Vardon, aged 50, Jones made a mess of the 7th hole after thinning a straightforward pitch over the green into heavy rough. Vardon wasn’t much of a chatter and the pair hadn’t exchanged a word until Jones, embarrassed and nervous, said, “Mr Vardon, have you ever seen a worse shot?”
Neither of them won that championship – Ted Ray, an Englishman, was the champion – at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio and 101 years later, in 2021, when the club hosts the Solheim Cup, some of us hope that it’ll be another foreigner, a Scot, holding the trophy aloft.
To no one’s surprise, Catriona Matthew, who led Europe to victory at Gleneagles a few weeks ago, will be captain again at Inverness. She was at home in North Berwick, cooking dinner, when the call came asking her to do the job again and she was delighted to accept.
“Being captain of the winning team was the highlight of my career,” she said. “Capturing the Solheim Cup in Scotland, an hour’s drive from our home, with my close friend Suzann Pettersen making the clinching putt on the last hole in the last match on the course…..you can’t top that.”
It’ll be different away from home, with the crowd cheering the Americans on but Catriona relishes the challenge: “I love Toledo and Inverness is such a Scottish name, I’m hoping that’s a good omen! Winning the Solheim Cup in Scotland was a dream come true but backing that up with a win in America would be even better.”