The Open and Watching Clouds

woody2Sometimes it’s hard to guess what is written in the stars.  And sometimes its best not to know what lies ahead. Some days it is possible to fill the unforgiving minute and fight against a headwind and running tide. Sometimes it’s good enough to make it through to another day.

It had been a week many would never forget, as Mother Nature intervened and blew away the hopes, dreams and balls of the fairway walkers at St. Andrews for the 150th Open championship. The Tourist Board were not impressed as the Galvins and umbrellas were beamed around the globe and Scotland tried to outdo Ireland and Wales in the adverse weather stakes of summer.

The locals saw it as nae but a stiff breeze, but the Rules officials watched the oscillating balls and made a different call.  Play was suspended for the second round.  It meant late finishes and early alarm calls for Pros who barely had time to dry their socks and blowdry their hair.  Daly entertained with his slimmer figure and kaleidoscope pants and Poults kept on his shades and stayed in the shade. Woods realized new relationships are not without their pitfalls, binned the new putter and went back to his Scotty Cameron.

Tom Watson walked across the Swilcan bridge and burn for a final time and heard the applause of the fans.   A salute to a champion, gent and legend, who proved the game is about more than collecting titles and beating records.  Old Tom Morris and Tom the Younger would have approved of this gentle American.  He played his final shot to the pin, tapped in for birdie, one final wave and was gone.

Louis Oosthuizen knew all about luck, wind and talent. And staying cool.  He listened to his wife and caddy.  The caddy gave the yardages.  His wife a wish list.

“I need a vase for my flowers” she said.

The Blazered Brigade winced in chorus and prayed for light airs.

The unknown golfer from South Africa tamed the links, sunk the putts and went home with the most prized vase in the world of golf.  He kissed the Claret Jug, hugged his pink candy striped baby and gave his wife her new vase. Sports commentators around the globe began to practice how to pronounce and spell the name of the new Open champion.  (Oast-hay-zun)

“Thank goodness that’s over for another year” said the Golf Police.

It was not a good time to mention Celtic Manor and the Ryder Cup.  Another battle for another day.

“So what are you up to tomorrow” asked the Golf Police over a swiftly served supper. Shepherds pie and peas, made in advance, removed from the fridge and into the microwave. Four minutes from fridge to plate.  Served between the last putt and the prize giving by the suited males of the R and A.

The remote control was handed back.

“Busy day” I said.

“An appointment with the vampires to give blood.  Banking and shopping. Usual stuff”.

“Thought you played golf on a Monday?” said Daughter No. One.

“If there is time” I said.  “Might fit in a few holes”

Where there is a way, there is a round. I was on the tee by the time the club had served its first plates of bacon and eggs, with strong tea and slices of toast.

We were a four ball.  Ruggy and I  took on Sid and The Busman.  They rode in a buggy.

“Might have to dock you some shots” said Ruggy.

“What about my bad foot” said The Busman.

“I know a good Foot Prof. I know all about plantar fascitis”.

The Busman did not want to hear about over- pronation and abuse of his plantar fascia.

“I just keep sticking it in a bucket of ice” he said.

It was not the time to tell him about the ‘r’ word.  The word all golfers dread. Rest.

With hindsight it might have been better to tell.  Or to have stayed at home, done the chores and given blood in the wagon.  But no one guessed what was written in the stars. And Sid was right.  It was not the fault of The Busman.

The sun shone and the oaks provided welcome shade at the side of the parched fairways. The greens were fast and the pins mean.  Sid and The Busman spent a lot of time in the shade. Ball hunting.

“You can use the fairways” said Ruggy.

The buggy rumbled along the path and the points were written on the card.

On the sixth the Bunker of PG Wodehouse came into play.

“Can’t believe I went in there” I said to Ruggy.

It became a numbers game.  Sixteen steps down to the bunker.  Three shots to find the green.  Sixteen steps out of the bunker.  Two putts. No points.  Sid and The Busman smiled and pulled back a point but they soon returned to the heather and shade of the oak trees.

“I make you six down at the turn” said Ruggy.

Sid looked at The Busman and The Busman looked at Sid.

“We need to do something about this” said Sid.

“Try staying out of the trees” said Ruggy.

Afterwards, The Busman blamed his foot.  His bad foot with the plantar fasciitis which he iced nightly in a bucket.

We won the tenth and were two points clear after the eleventh.  Above the sky was blue and covered with randomly scattered altocumulus.  Planes still left their vapour trails and the oaks still offered shade.

The twelfth is a par five.  Four hundred and eighty six off the white tees. Stroke index four.  Abercrombie designed a monster.  A blind tee shot with a fairway girdled with heather which could snaffle a ball and make it disappear like a plane in the Bermuda Triangle.  Smart play is to the top of the ridge, find the middle of the fairway and on for three shots.

The Busman took out his wood. He placed his srixon ball on the tee and took a few swings with his aching fascia muscle. Sid watched but he never managed to speak.  Until afterwards.

I remember the sky was still blue and the clouds were like rolling waves on the sea.  But it was not a day for cloud watching.  I should have watched the man on the tee.  The Busman with the bad foot, who shanked the ball off the tee.

I heard the ball come off the club face and looked down from the clouds. This was my ‘star moment’. My destiny to meet the ball of The Busman beneath the altocumulous clouds and bright blue sky.  The ball moved faster than my brain. So I closed my eyes as the ball fizzed past my right ear, by a gossamer thread.  The ball beat the call of Sid.  It hit a tree and missed my left ear on its return.  A double whammy.

Sid did not sugar coat it.  Nor did Ruggy.

“You got lucky there, Babe.  Thought you were a gonna” said Sid.

“The first one would have killed you.  The second one would have hurt” said Ruggy.

I liked the logic.  The Busman stood transfixed.  Whiter than the clouds. Clouds which stood between me and heaven.

“My fault” I said to The Busman.  “Standing in the wrong place. Not paying attention”.

The Busman just nodded.  Shaken, stirred and pale.

We won the match.  Six up on the front and seven up on the back.  But somehow the win was not important.  Not compared to the cloud destiny moment.

“We won’t tell anyone about today” said The Busman.  We all agreed. Some things stay on the fairway.

I went to the bank and made it to the blood wagon. Supper was burnt.  But it tasted good.

“Good day?” said the Golf Police.

I thought about the clouds and The Busman.  The fizzing ball and the ricochet from the oak tree.  The double whammy which missed.   Our four ball secret.

“Very good, thanks” I said.  I told him about the bank and the chores and the Irish nurse, called Mary, who took my blood and gave me the words to read of ‘the Fields of Athenrye’.  I told the Golf Police about Michael who stole Trevalien’s corn for his starving wife and bairn and who was sent on a transport ship to Botany Bay.

But I never mentioned the ball and the clouds.

That evening, The Busman put his foot in ice and long after Watson and Woods flew back to the States and St. Andrews bade farewell to the circus of fans, vans, blazers and psychedelic pants of Daly, Louis went home with his wife, baby and the vase. The wind blew off the sea across the links and only the ghosts of Braid, Taylor and Morris walked across the Swilcan Bridge toward the eighteenth tee.