THUNDER BAY – LIVING – It was our great Aunt Martha who handed down her golf clubs to our family. In her elegance she was also responsible in teaching our son, Galen, about her lifetime adoration of the sport.
Caring for him, when he was only four, she’d sit on a davenport cradling him in an
outstretched arm watching the Masters on TV. I recall her saying, “now I hope your family will always remember my telling my favourite is Nick Faldo of England. He became a very elite player. He also speaks with such clarity about the sport.”
This week the Masters course in Augusta, Georgia will again be the golfing focus of the world of golf. Faldo will be represented there as well because this prestigious Tourney has become a Rite of Spring. Inspiring global audiences as winter fades turning viewers eyes to the incredible beauty of Augusta’s course design. Its fairways and greens. Appointed with such decorative native flowers. Besides, the greens keepers are so thorough in their artistry a general comment each year reflects the fact that one will never find a weed anyway in its overall layout.
Yet if you ask a golfer about the measurement of golf’s white ball–evolving from pebbles, flint stones Scottish shepherds once chipped into rabbit holes using wooden sticks–you will encounter something of what follows.
What is the diameter and weight of a modern golf ball? Rather immediately a golfer will reflecta quizzical glance then reply, “why should I need to know that?”
Gerry Kirk is truly an aldermanic local golfer. Playing the game he has such a passion for over fifty years. He has pursued it with such a zest and enthusiasm for playing different courses. It has taken Kirk across Canada and the U.S.,and wherever he and his wife, Dorothy, have travelled.
So putting a focus on the mathematics of a golf ball Kirk informs me, “you do realize,” he pauses in our discussion. “You are the first one to ever inquire about its dimensions,” he wasgrinning. “And I know,” he allowed, “You do know the answer. Because I don’t think I do.”
It’s the running stock response anyone will receive asking the same question we did.
That’s always been a kind of riddle in meeting golfers over time. Because baseball fans can often reel off the size of a baseball: 5 1/4 ounces (141-148 gms) wound tightly with 236 stitches. Hockey fans take pride knowing a vulcanized hockey puck is 1 inch thick (2.54 cm) and 3 inches (7.6 cm) across.
Back to golf balls. Someone has got to carry their measure while playing the sport. Especially when a maker like Titlelist, in a benchmark year, marketed a record 75 million golf balls. And here it is: the diameter is 1.67 inches (42.67 cm) and weighs 1.62 ounces (45.93 gms). It is dimpled to assist its travel while rotating in the aerial routes a golfer smacks it into.
And that’s where talk of the Masters reminds me of a conversation, only a year ago, with one raised in Georgia who was assisting at the Thunder Bay Museum. She said, “it’s a Southern showcase in all its dimensions. I mean it’s watched on TV, like here, but people arrive from everywhere just to see its brilliantly budding landscape It’s so inspiring after winter.”
She continued, “what makes it are those immense Magnolia trees bursting out along the fairway. I believe they were planted from seeds in the 1860’s. Then it’s also a tradition there topresent a Magnolia flower to a girl. The same way an orchid is symbolic in Hawaii.”
Following the Masters traditions over time it is certainly a special thread woven into both the charm and the competition when past giants in the sport arrive with fascinating stories of what the location and the legends of who’s played there means. In his sixties now Tom Watson re-kindles a in merely saying, “it’s stories. Stories retold. Stories untold. Stories as they unfold as we circle back each April. The stories are of the best ones like Claude Harmon, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, and, of course Bobby Jones. It was Jones and designer Clifford Roberts who once initiated this place to play. Never to forget Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and current followers. Including Canadian Mike Weir.”
Aunt Martha’s Nick Faldo who has been victorious at Augusta, when he was younger, has a view that’s pertinent. “A Masters is all about preparation. Aligning your head with your feet and hands. Swinging with rhythm. Giving it your best concentration in putting. You are constantly dealing with the volume nob of what’s inside you. You have to turn things up. It all begins with the players practice rounds. Those times fortify a golfer. Because his memory for shots and angles comes back again and again. All this helps get one into the hunt.”
The memory bit rings very true. A few years ago I’d sent an Irish postcard to the Chronicle’s former publisher Colin Bruce while our family was flying to places.
Colin immediately wrote back saying, “I actually played the Lahinch Course, pictured in your card, recently.” He revealed in his writing, “it’s composed of a devilish little track you experience there. With a blind par three making you realize it’s got to be teed off with a driver to reach anything in the strong Irish winds.”
Augusta’s layout has an almost sacred aura to places within its design. During the 1958 Masters a writer called Herbert Warren Wind was with Sports Illustrated following the action.
The paramount action that ensued through Augusta’s conjunction holes at the 11th, 12th and 13th holes were staggeringly difficult that spring. What he observed were golfers who were really striving to register good scores. They would go amiss. Recover.
Finally gain a little success and go on. Wind wrote, “It was like they were needing, searching for, some kind of spiritual help.”
He converted all this documentation into what he would see as being Amen Corner.
“I loved Jazz music,” he said. “I took that phrase from the great jazz song Shouting InThat Amen Corner.” His moniker for those holes has become such a long lasting piece of writing.
Writing and collecting ideas, with pages of notes, about golf a few entries in my notebook have persistently revealed the inherent, consistent struggles– yet also- within the beauty of the sport. As good a place to pause and watch this year’s competitive field.
“Golf is complex like life. Only golf is more complicated.” A golfing proverb.
“A golf swing often feels like a suitcase into which we are trying to pack one too many things.” The Sporting Scene in the New Yorker.
“Often, golf may be seen as a good walk… gone sour.” Oscar Wilde.
“A two inch putt counts the same as something driven 250 yards right down the fairway. There’s a comedy in this and a certain unfairness. Which makes the sport of golf even an apter mirror of our own realities.” John Updike in his book Golf Dreams.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. True genius hits a target no one else can see.”