We had an appointment with Sarah Petulengro, the Gypsy fortune-teller on Blackpool's North Pier, for four o'clock last Thursday afternoon, but something unforeseen came up, and she had to cancel. So it was Saturday morning when we handed her David Feherty's golf ball, its aura weakened by two nights in the pocket of an American. The Gypsy handled the Titleist 1 warily and frowned over the five green dimples that are Feherty's mark.
"It's always better when the subject is present," she said, wiping sea salt off the larger of two crystal balls. We apologized and explained that Feherty, an Irish pro, had given us his Titleist on the practice green at nearby Royal Lytham and St. Annes, where, with beads of sweat on his forehead, he was holding a s�ance with a dead putter.
"Well, I think he has a very strong personality," the Gypsy began confidently. "Green's a good color, especially with him being Irish. He will be lucky because the Irish are very lucky." Was the number five significant? The five green dimples? She shook her head. "Not really."
Then, taking a deep breath, she made her call. "I think he's got a good chance, don't you?"
Actually we didn't. Feherty had already shot 77-67 and missed the cut by a stroke.
"Oh, well," she said, smiling brightly, "I don't know anything about golf."
To be fair, you didn't have to be a fortune-teller to get it wrong last week—not in Blackpool. The Open championship tends to overwhelm Scottish towns like St. Andrews, Turnberry and Troon, but its visits to Royal Lytham and St. Annes near Blackpool in northwest England are virtual pinpricks on a shoreline that welcomes 17 million travelers a year. Mere minutes north of the golf course and an easy drive from the industrial towns of Liverpool and Manchester, Blackpool (pop. 148,000) is variously promoted as the Las Vegas of England or the Workingman's Riviera.
It is, in fact, a sight to scare Old Tom Morris back into one of his revetted bunkers: seven miles of noise, glitter, seagulls, naughty postcards and pubs. And no golf—unless you count the ubiquitous miniature golf courses with their side rails and dollops of painted concrete. "It is a peculiar place, I tell you," says Bill Batty, a retired air-traffic engineer living by the tram terminus where the resort meets staid old St. Annes on the Sea. "You either love it or hate it."
Most Britons love it. Blackpool boasts an unbelievable 3,500 hotels and guest houses, most of them three-to five-story structures with table lamps glowing in perfect rows in the windows of second-floor lounges. Many of these establishments have heated indoor swimming pools and "en suite" rooms—i.e., private baths. Just as many do not, which is why vacationers can enjoy Blackpool for as little as $15 a night.
Whatever they pay, they get the essential Blackpool experience: three piers, a seven-mile-long Promenade, hundreds of two-penny slots, a giant Ferris wheel, the world-class Pleasure Beach amusement park and the famous Blackpool Tower—a half-scale knockoff of la Tour Eiffel. (The Paris tower, a Blackpool spokesman points out helpfully, looms over "gardens and the like." Blackpool's tower, on the other hand, rises above "an entertainment complex on seven floors. On a wet day you've got something to do!") What they don't get is a swim in the Irish Sea. In 1985 the European Economic Community declared the water unfit for bathing, forcing beachgoers to play tag with a tide that leaves acres of sand exposed one hour and inundated the next. Less chancy are the Prom's many benches, upon which pensioners sunbathe in postures of lassitude, sometimes dozing.