Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two Great Stories from the History of the Old Course at St. Andrews

Two Great Stories from the history of the Old Course at St Andrews Every serious golfer is familiar with the legendary accomplishments of Bobby Jones. In 1958, after many years of retirement, he was asked to come to St Andrews where he was granted honorary status as a citizen of St Andrews. At this ceremony he recounted his last round at St Andrews in 1936. He had retired after winning the grand slam in 1930 at the ripe old age of twenty eight. After winning the Open in 1926 he arrived the next year and declared that if he won the tournament the trophy would stay in St Andrews. This simple declaration would endear him among the citizens of St Andrews forever. He won and it stayed. He also won again in 1929 before winning the grand slam in 1930. After the 1930 win he received a miniature replica of the trophy after he returned home replete with the names of the winners engraved. Did you know that during the time of his great tournament wins Bobby Jones only averaged playing about eighty rounds per year? I know golfers that play nearly that many rounds in three months.

At the ceremony in 1958, he told of being at Gleneagles with friends playing golf as a side event to his trip to the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. He remarked to his friends that he could not be so close to St Andrews without going back for a visit. He slipped into town thinking he would not be noticed. By the time he reached the first tee there were 2,000 spectators lining the fairway at the number one tee. Before he had played the fourth hole there were 4,000. This is a great story. It reveals the high esteem that the citizens of St Andrews hold for Bobby Jones. But it also reveals their intense love of the game.

There is another story that you may not know of a local golfer who had a similar experience at St Andrews. Upon my return from our England/Scotland 2005 trip, I was told by my wife that Judi Jehle had called and left word that she would like some tips on planning a 2006 trip to Ireland. While discussing with her some of her options for such a trip, the subject of St Andrews came up. To my surprise she told me that she had played in the Ladies British Amateur Championship at St Andrews in 1975. This would be the last tournament golf for Judi for some time as she soon entered Medical School. 1975 was the first year women were allowed in the Royal & Ancient clubhouse. There was an extraordinary field of competitors because the World Cup matches were held the next week in Scotland and all the great teams from all over the world were there for the British Amateur. Judi was playing well and won matches that brought her to the quarter finals. It was in this quarter final match that she was paired against Belle Roberts who had been Scotland’s best player for years. She won the Amateur every year for many years. She also either won or came close to winning the Ladies British Open on several tries. Judi and Belle would become embroiled in an incredible match. Most of the town came out to watch after hearing that Belle had come up against a serious and formidable opponent. Judi’s remarks were there was such a crowd that even some dogs came out and followed the match. Judi shot 34 on the front and had Belle four down at the turn.

The word got out that Belle was down and on the back nine the whole town closed down and more folks came out to watch. Tip Anderson, Arnold Palmer’s legendary caddie was carrying Judi’s bag. With all the support the town citizenry would give her, Belle rallied and shot 34 on the back beating Judi one up. Judi recounts that “Tip” had many great stories to tell her during the course of that week. Judi was very impressed with the play of Belle Roberts. Belle was Captain that year of the World Cup team from the British Isles and also Curtis Cup Captain. She went on to win the tournament. Judi had several practice rounds at St Andrews in addition to her matches, but unbelievably this would be the only course that she would play on this trip---- and she has never been back! Someone of her talent level would certainly appreciate the many courses played over the years by the Dal Riadas gang.

I certainly hope Judi gets a chance to return to the magical land that is “Links Golf”.
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