It’s been quite a strange day.
50 years ago, I had just finished the school year at a small prep school in Salisbury. Went there two years before when Dad got posted to Southern Command. A wee Scots lad from the state system who could not understand most of what was being said to him when I first arrived. I had never heard of ‘chits’ or ‘ditty bags’ and struggled utterly to understand why the past participle of the verb ‘eat’ could or should be pronounced ‘et’ when it was spelt ‘ate’. Never been happy with ‘spelled’ either by the way. And then we had this business with the Lord’s prayer every morning when I was begging forgiveness for my debts whilst all around me were sussurating some rubbish about trespasses.
Anyhow, I coped and sailed through Shell. 3b, 3a, 4b, 4a and Lower Remove in two years. Looking forward to CSE and probably Haileybury when Dad suddenly got civilianised in a round of Armed Services cutbacks and we abandoned the tame and domestic pleasures of England for Caledonia (‘stern and wild’).
Not a problem, of course. Whole family on both sides are completely Jockish and it was like a salmon returning to its birthplace in some ways. But, adjustments still had to be made. Golf was one. Mum and Dad were members of Salisbury & South Wilts Golf Club during their time in exile and that was where I first learnt to swing a club in impotent rage at the inability of the average golf ball to understand what was required of it. Never met anybody else at school whose parents even tried to play the game.
So, for me, golf was a quiet and private Scots family game which very few Southrons played or understood. Back in Scotland and suddenly we’re talking the national game and a major spectator sport. Which brings me to St Andrews in 1960 and the Centenary Open.
Magic from the moment that I woke up and we drove through from Perth to park by the beach and then to walk up to the Old Course. It was the Friday (3rd round in those days) and we were following George Will (Ladybank and Ryder Cup and ex-caddie of my Great Aunt Aggie), Peter Thomson (5 times winner and Aussie but nonetheless a distant blood relative on my mother’s side) and a Rutherford from Perth who was a relative of my sister’s best friend. Said sister blundered into the arms of Champagne Tony Lema whilst crossing the 16th fairway but, disappointingly, nothing came of it.
Now, Dad was a Sapper officer but, unfortunately, particularly inept when it came to actually making anything. The guys under his command were, of course, superb. So, I had this state of the art periscope which had been crafted from a blueprint in the ‘Eagle’ annual of 1958.
Didn’t miss a thing as a result and it was a totally unforgettable day. Even better two days later when we went back to watch an exhibition matchplay game between Arnie Palmer and Gary Player.
So, today was meant to be a celebration. Sis was there and I should have been too. Work intervened and it never happened. It was still a great day out all those years ago..