A Clean Miss.
Willie Dunn's Shop at Shinnecock.
Then, again, we are not surprised to find that Mr. J. E. Laidlay, who is without doubt the most brilliant match player of all the first-class amateurs, was one of the most remarkable school cricketers when he was a boy at Loretto; and so instances might be multiplied. Mr. Horace Hutchinson was a good cricketer in his college days; Mr. Mure Fergusson, the Blackwells, and Mr. John Ball are all men of great physical strength and muscular activity. The last-named player had the distinction of being the first amateur to win the open championship; and, although there are others who in the last two or three years have met him on even terms, he was for a short time quite unique in the power and accuracy of his play, and it is certain that he could never have reached such perfection if it had not been for the country life which allowed him constant practice and plenty of hard physical exercise.
It may be taken for granted, then, that although a man can play the game as long as he can walk, or even ride round the links on a pony, the real science of golf can only be acquired by men of athletic capacity. To saunter round the eighteen holes on a summer afternoon, with intervals for tobacco and conversation, is one thing. It is another and a very different undertaking to go through a championship tournament, playing thirty-six holes a day, when every drive must be hit hard and clean, every approach must be accurate, every put must be true to a hair's breadth. A foot-ball match is a matter of less than two hours; from the instant the ball is in play the nervous strain is removed, and the constant action requires a sound wind and rleetness of foot, but not the absolute freedom and yet control of the muscles which is requisite for steady driving, nor anything like the strain on the nerves which is kept up from the start to the finish of a close encounter at golf.
It was probably an awakening to the fact that golf was, after all, a real branch of athletics that brought about its sudden and extraordinary popularity in England eight or nine years ago. The conversion of the South began when many of the prominent cricketers discarded the bat to take up the golf club. Having for many years dismissed the Scotch game with various disparaging terms, such as "parlor skittles" or "Scotch croquet," they at length discovered that it only required a single trial to enamour them of this much-despised pastime. Moreover, it became apparent that for those who had left college, and settled down to a regular profession, cricket was a vain and elusive pursuit, making far too strenuous demands upon the time and purse to come within the reach of any but the rich and idle. Golf, on the other hand, could be freely enjoyed by all who were able to spare an afternoon a week. No sooner, therefore, were the floodgates opened than the new waters threatened to inundate the whole field of English sport. The stanchest cricketers were found among the proselytes; lawn tennis became a thing of the past; the crack shots from the midland counties would tarry on the links of St. Andrews late in the year, when the partridges and pheasants were waiting to be killed at home; even the rabid fox-hunter found himself wasting whole days when the frost was out of the ground, chasing the guttapercha instead of the brush. Heretofore in Scotland an inland links was exceedingly rare; but now they sprang up in every county of Great Britain. Old lawns, on whose immemorial turf it had been reckoned a sin even to walk, were ruthlessly hacked to pieces by the iron of the golfing tyro; the cattle were robbed of their pas-turelands in order that the putting-greens should not be disturbed; and, last but not least, the Sabbath was freely violated by men and women who had never before missed a morning service in church.
Needless to say, this sudden enthusiasm was regarded with supreme distrust by the conservative Scotchman. New elements were introduced into the game which he could least endure. Formerly the only prizes in the year had been the autumn and spring medals at the leading clubs; and these were coveted for glory and not for their intrinsic value, which amounted to less than that of the expense in clubs and balls which it cost to win them. The real game of golf was to be found only in match play; and the counting of scores was regarded with the utmost abhorrence except on those rare occasions, twice in the year, when it was absolutely necessary. The Englishman, however, looked upon the matter in a very different light. Long practice in lawn-tennis tournaments had inured him to the vicious habit of pot-hunting, so that golf for him was a new and unending source of joy. Tournaments and sweepstakes were matters of weekly occurrence; a system of handicapping was instituted, and the young golfer was chiefly engaged not so much in improving his game as in defeating the vigilance of the green-committee; nor was it at all rare to find a veritable duffer in possession of many valuable trophies, any one of which would have bought up all the medals in the keeping of the best first-class player in Scotland. It can hardly be wondered, then, that the term "English golfer" became one of reproach upon the Northern courses. The pilgrims from the South were, in fact, a terrible nuisance. They had no respect for the sacred traditions of the game; they appeared on the classic heath of St. Andrews adorned in flaring "blazers," which rilled the mind of the orthodox Scot with loathing; they never played a match, but toiled round the links with pencil and card, intent on deceiving themselves into the belief that they were daily lowering their record. A famous old caddie at North Berwick expressed the general feeling of his outspoken class when he pointed to one of these misguided individuals busily engaged with his card on one of the putting-greens, utterly oblivious to the fact that he was delaying the field while he worked in the higher branches of arithmetic, and remarked in a loud tone of contempt to one of his party, "D'ye see yon man? D'ye ken the best club in his set - it's his pencil."