Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Barhopping Vestryman of St Andrews

In 2005 during a five night stay in St Andrews, our group anxiously awaited our next day’s round on the Old Course. Going against past vows, we had succumbed to purchasing a five night, four course package from Golf Scotland, a golf travel company based in Dundee, Scotland. This company, among others, buys tee times that are allotted to small lodging venues in the town of St Andrews. St Andrews Trust, the entity that runs the much sought after St Andrews golf facility, grants a small number of tee times to these local lodging venues. To maximize the effect of these allotments, these facilities exchange their tee times for five night bookings with golf travel companies, assuring these small companies of filling their rooms during the summer golfing season. Golf Scotland sold us the package at a greatly inflated price which at the time cost our group around $2,300. For this we received access to tee times on the “Old Course”, Carnoustie, Kingsbarns, and the St Andrews Jubilee course and five nights lodging. The rooms were adequate, but when priced separately along with the golf green fees the total cost would have been less than half what we paid.

After dinner on Saturday night our group gathered at a local bar located on the corner just a few steps from our bed and breakfast rooms. This is where we met John. If I ever heard John’s last name, it has now escaped me. John was a local avid golfer who talked endlessly about the Old Course. It seems that the locals are granted membership in the St Andrews Trust courses. Locals are allowed reserved tee times which are plentiful and cost a mere fraction of what visitors pay for green fees. Bill, the proprietor of one of our two B&B’s, played the Old Course everyday we were in St Andrews. I had a lot of questions for John. I had heard that in prior years that The British Open was held at St Andrews that visitors who played the course for two to three weeks prior to the tournament were required to carry a plastic mat around the course with them. Each shot was to be hit from off the mat rather than from the ground where the ball had come to rest. John allayed my fears, declared that this was no longer a requirement, that he had played the course that very afternoon from the turf and we were not to worry. Being a links golf enthusiast I had many questions for John. John answered each one in great detail. After an hour or so of pontificating on St Andrews, and after multiple pints of Scotland’s best brew, John suddenly pushed back his chair and declared that he had an appointment at another local bar and that he must be on his way. We retired that night thinking that John probably imbibed well into the morning hours.

The next morning the father and son duo, Bill and Joe Howard, decided to attend mass at the Catholic Church which was located only a half block from our rooms. When Bill and Joe entered the church they were startled at what they saw. There in the altar area of the church was our bar friend John, totally garbed in a vestment robe. Yes, John assisted in administering communion for those gathered for this Sunday morning service. As Joe and Bill returned to our quarters I was standing outside the front door. As they began their report John appeared, marching up our street, still fully robed in his vestment attire.
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