"I think I'm bringing the Old Course to its knees."
And Ginger said, "Aye, you made a putt or two, Sir. But now we go home into the wind."
In rapid order, I was lost in the Elysian Fields, lost in the Beardies, trapped in Hell Bunker, gouged in the Principal's Nose, over the fence, smothered in heather and even out of bounds on an overhang of The Old Course Hotel at the Road Hole. Finally I limped up the 18th fairway en route to the Valley of Sin. Par for 86.
"You had a wee bit of hard luck," Ginger said. "But it can't spoil the fact that as we cum up the 18th, we sense a wee bit of tradition, don't we?"
Keith Mackenzie peered down from his balcony as I walked onto the green. I putted out: a straight-in four-footer that broke six inches. The secretary motioned me up for lunch in the R&A dining room—no smoking at all. I toured the club and reread the letter that Isaac Grainger, then USGA president, had written to the R&A on the occasion of its 200th birthday.
Grainger said, in part: "What golf has of honor, what it has of justice, of fair play, of good fellowship and sportsmanship—in a word, what is best in golf—is almost surely traceable to the inspiration of the Royal and Ancient."
I thought of those words again as I strolled back outside to stand and look at the sea and at the town and all across the gentle green sweep of the Old Course—the oldest course.
I had been there all of my life.