British Open | Pilgrimage to St Andrews

Many golfers dream of going to St Andrews one day, to play on the old course of course, but also to discover the city that is the birthplace of golf.

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Michael Marwa

Michael Marwa
Journalism

We can bet they will be more numerous this weekend after the 150 . showe British Open on the famous track.

My colleague Nicholas Richard reminded us in our Wednesday edition of how much history the tournament has sunk and particularly the old & royal club of St Andrews. You only have to set foot in a small town on the Fife Peninsula to realize that this is true.

Watch out for traps

I’ve been fortunate enough to go to St Andrews a few times, last time in 2015 for 144e aluminum

Earlier this week, some fellow Canadians and I followed golfer Graham Delight for a practice round. We walked behind him, on rugged fairways, around the greens, across tall grass as well, and even into the bunker, seeing how many North American golfers like DeLaet—used to manicured, flat courses—out of place when they land on Link Scottish history.

In the old court, once you step away from the first holes, you find yourself on a peninsula in the estuary of the Eden, in an environment that mixes grassy areas full of sand pits and plenty of thatch.

Usually, it takes a bit of foresight to find your target with each hit. There are often two holes on each green—one for the forward nine and one for the back nine—and another four courses directly adjacent to the old course.

It is not easy to find the right flag. On my first visit, on a fall day in the early ’90s, I got lost on the third hole and it was the club employee who pointed me in the right direction.


PHOTO GLYN KIRK, AFP

One of the many deep bunkers in Old St Andrews Stadium

Of course, the Omnium fixtures guide the spectators, and the professionals know the course by heart. However, this does not protect them from all the traps that have accumulated over the centuries and that wait for the slightest negligence, the reckless shot, to punish golfers and remind them of their whereabouts.

Gods, Demons and Ghosts

in golf in the kingdomA curious book between mathematical narrative, philosophy, and metaphysics, American author Michael Murphy describes a legendary course reminiscent of Old Course and St. Andrews that has become a spectacle of tentative research in which golf history and mythology mingle.

All the skills in the world are not enough to hit a small white ball into a hole a few centimeters long: it also requires a little luck and the helping hand of gods, demons or golf ghosts. And you won’t be surprised to learn that many of them hunt St. Andrews and its courses.

Starting with Morrises.

Old Tom Morris, whose name is around town, was born in St. Andrews in 1821 and was a professional at the Royal & Ancient until his death at the age of 86 in 1908. He was a four-time Omnium Champion, and was instrumental in creating the rules and regulations for the tournament.

His son, Young Tom Morris, also a four-time winner of the British Open, holds a special place in golf history.

Capable of defeating his father at age 13, winner of his first professional tournament at age 16 and Omnium Champion from 1868-17, a record never came close to in the major tournaments. Still a champion in 1869, 1870 and 1872 (the Omnium was not contested in 1871), Young Tom remains the only one to win the title four times in a row.

Wealthy and revered in his early twenties, he was famous throughout Britain and abroad, but died at the age of 24. He, too, is buried in St Andrews Cathedral, where guides are quick to recount his exploits in the beautiful Scottish dialect.

In 1870, for example, playing with wooden rods and rubber balls that could not exceed 200 yards, Morris was able to score 3 points on a 578-yard hole, which is 6 degrees at the time!

According to legend, Young Tom and his father were playing a match at the prestigious Park Brothers in South Berwick in September 1875 when he received a telegram that his wife was about to give birth. After completing (and winning) the match, Morris hopped on a ship to return to St. Andrews. Upon his arrival, Young Tom learns of the death of his wife and child. He never recovered and in turn died on Christmas Day 1875, at the age of 24, officially of a heart attack, but our evidence assures us that he died sadly.

Even today, when a storm swept across the ancient path, Young Tom is said to be angry. And when a little rain wets the walkways, they say he cries.

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