There was a naughty boy,
And a naughty boy was he,
He ran away to Scotland
The people for to see –
John Keats, 1818
By Anthony Deyal
While there was speculation that the golf-loving prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago went to the Climate Change Summit in Scotland to escape the mounting pressures of trying to manage the country, the fact is that the modern game of golf was first developed and established in Scotland. Joe Biden, also a golfer, was there at the Summit and had Donald Trump still been president he would, of course, have been first in and last out of the country, kicking, screaming and blaming Biden.
The jokes have been floating around about whether the prime minister is an “Ace”, a “damn-ace”, or a “bogey-man”. One friend called me and said that when the prime minister played his first round at St Andrew’s he asked the caddy, “How do you like my game?” and the caddy responded, “Very good sir! But personally, I prefer golf!” Later, trying to get his own back from the caddie’s insult the prime minister shouted angrily, “Why do you keep looking at your watch? I find it very distracting.” The caddie corrected him, “It’s not a watch, prime minister. It’s a compass.” The next day the prime minister asked for a new caddy, someone more experienced, and after a while of not doing well he asked the man, “What is wrong with my game?” The caddy thought for a moment and trying not to anger the prime minister too much answered politely, “Sir. You’re standing too close to the ball after you’ve hit it.”
I am not a golf fan or fanatic. I ask the question often, “If horse-racing is the sport of kings, and drag-racing is the sport of queens, what is golf?” Some say it is a lot of walking, broken up by disappointment and bad arithmetic. Because of the high cost associated with it, golf is said to be a sport that keeps you on the green, in the pink and in the red. General Ulysses Grant, after trying and missing both the ball and the hole for some time, put it succinctly, “There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball.” What I believe is that golf got its name because all the other four-letter words were taken.
In my case, even though I lived on two golf courses I have never played or been tempted to play golf. The only hole-in-one I have ever got is in my boxers even though I don’t box either. At the first place we lived, my family and I tried taking long walks on the course in the late evening. Men would wave sticks and clubs threateningly in our direction but we paid them no heed. Mark Twain once said that golf is a good walk spoiled and we did not want that to happen to us. What spoilt it for me is that after their games, the golfers all assembled at the poolside or what they called the “nineteenth hole” which was the only one that had no handicap except driving the car safely home afterwards.
The second golf course, just outside the house in which I lived, was frequented by the prime minister of the time and his wife who were indifferent golfers at best and several times narrowly missed hitting my two children and new SUV. For most of the afternoon, particularly on Saturdays and Sundays, we either had to stay locked up inside the house or go to a nearby shopping mall until night fell. This did not endear me either to the game or to the players. The worst was the plodding, ancient collection of duffers who believed that the best way to the bar was through the golf course. Seeing them stumble past, I always thought of Winston Churchill’s quip, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an even smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose.” I tend to add “and people, better equipped perhaps, but much less adept.”
I remember cracking up over a joke I heard then – malicious and politically incorrect but enough to make up for our taut nerves whenever golfers were on the green. The wife of a prime minister suffered a terrible bee sting and after being rushed to a nearby “company” hospital complained bitterly to the doctor who had to leave his game to attend to her. When he asked her where she was hurt, the First Lady explained, “I got stung between the first and second hole,” The doctor smiled and replied in awe, “You must have an awfully wide stance!”
I like golf jokes but not the game unless Tiger Woods is playing. While his rise to the top was enough to trigger the Chris Rock quip, “The world’s coming to an end. The world’s best golfer is black and the world’s best rapper is white”, I still clung to the belief that anyone who could spend a day engulfed in golf on television could just as easily watch grass grow in the savannah, or a snail run the marathon. My friends have made many vain attempts to get me to play golf but I always declined. Now in my declining years, I am even more reluctant to try it. I figure I would be like Bob Hope when he joked, “I went to play golf and tried to shoot my age but I shot my weight instead.”
Hank Aaron, who once held the record for home runs in baseball, stated, “It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.” Andrew Perry, the comic, joked that there are three roads to ruin: women, gambling and golf. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with gambling, but the surest is with golf.
Talking about women, someone tried to make a joke claiming it was about a prime minister. Knowing what politics does to some men, I believed him. The story is that a prime minister wife angrily berated him, “You spend too much time thinking about golf! Do you even remember the day we got married?” The prime minister replied, “Of course I do honey. It was the same day I made a hole in one.” My friend, however, had the last word. “Tony boy,” he complained, “golfers like that make eighteen holes in one day and I take more than eighteen days to make one hole.” On hearing 1818, the year his poem was written, I immediately went to John Keats and continued reading about the naughty boy in Scotland,
So he stood in his shoes
And he wondered,
He stood in his shoes
And he wondered.
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying, for what it’s worth, golf is like life… you strive for the green, but end up in the hole.