My Favorite Major Championship
It was only after my brother and I made our trip to Scotland in 1990 that this week’s event – The Open Championship – (British Open to most) became my favorite event to watch on TV.
Once you’ve played those courses and experienced that kind of golf, it gives you an appreciation for the way the game was played . . . and invented to be played . . . centuries ago. We play a very different game here in the States than they do over there. Ours is an airborne assault, a dart game of sorts, where every shot is designed to be hit high, with spin and stop where it lands. This is very different from the ground game that defines golf over there.
One of my favorite memories of that extraordinary adventure was from Turnberry, where a ‘pearl of wisdom” was laid on me by my caddie. My brother fancies himself a comic of sorts and derives great pleasure from telling stories and jokes in the appropriate accents. So we’re walking down the fairway and he turns to our caddies and says in his newly-developed Scottish accent, “So boys, what do ye think of our ‘Scautish’ accent?”, to which my caddy replied:
“Aye, ye Americans. Ye do to the language what ye did to the game.”
In response to our inquiry as to what he meant by that, we were treated to a wonderful bit of insight into ourselves as Americans. Here’s a paraphrase of Les’ explanation that morning on the fairways of Turnberry.
“You Americans do not leave much to chance – you apply science and technology to make life so much easier and more efficient and dependable. And you’ve done the same to golf. You groom your courses to make them ‘fair’, whatever that means. You make your fairways smooth and green to eliminate the vagaries of the turf that can cause the ball to go any which way. You groom your greens to pool-table consistency. You gave bunker rakes to the game, reducing a genuine hazard to an intentional target for the pros.
“But along the way you changed the game. Golf was intended to be a ‘man against nature’ challenge. How a man handles the adversity that is a certainty on the golf course gives you measure of his soul and his integrity; an accounting of sorts of the kind of man he is inside. When you take away the risk of an unfortunate break, you strip away a great part of a great game."
Well, I’ve thought about that little soliloquy many times since then, and came to realize that this caddy was one of the more observant men I’ve ever met. And it changed my approach to golf and the crazy bounces and breaks that even our courses present.
Fair ????? There’s nothing about this game that is fair and we can’t make it that way. And that’s a huge part of the glory of the game we love. Cherish your bad breaks for the character-builders they are and love this game for all that it is.
Oh, and as you watch The Open this weekend, pay particular attention the creativity exhibited by these players as they negotiate a little white ball over several miles of turf. You’ll see so much variety it will astound you.
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I know it's finished now (I just discovered your blog) but add to that playing in howling winds with fairways and greens which can go from sponges which suck the ball down half an inch to concrete which will bounce the ball fifty yards over the course of the tournament.
Good post. Makes me sad this years Open has already passed us by.
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