The Jigger Inn in St. Andrews, Scotland is the tiniest pub you've ever seen. If it were any smaller, it wouldn't be. It seemed an unworthy place in which to announce my historic deed. And Alistair seemed an unworthy audience. But that's the way of things.
The Jigger is in a hotel that sits just off the fairway of the 17th, the awful Road Hole, at St. Andrews. It was there that I ran into Alistair. He's a caddie, and he was dry.
The gods of golf brought us together last July at the completion of my round on the Old Course, which is regarded as the birthplace, or at least the cradle, of golf. I'd been playing golf for some time, free of the burdens of talent, skill and hope, and I'd done nothing this day to damage my three-figure scoring average. I was halfway to the Jigger Inn when it hit me that I'd just accomplished a feat unprecedented in the 450 or so years that golf has been played at St. Andrews. I had to tell someone.
"Well, now," Alistair said, sitting back, "how was your first trip around the old girl?"
"Do you realize," I said, "that I've just played the Old Course—and never once hit into a bunker!"
"Really," Alistair said. "I'll have a pint of bitter."
I think Alistair lacked a certain perspective. I couldn't prove that no one had ever played a bunker-free round on the Old Course, but it's a good bet.
The Old Course is municipally owned and largely unchanged from the days when the locals used it for golf, for strolling and for grazing their sheep. The bunkers were what remained after sheep scratched for shelter from the winds coming off the North Sea, and after the townsfolk had dug for seashells.
In fact, those Americans about to make their first pilgrimage to the Old Course are in for a shock. Compared to the poodle-perfect layouts here, St. Andrews is an alley mutt. It's shaggy and lumpy. Half-Knickers—more on him presently—addressed this point when we reached the second tee and gazed out over gorse and other untailored flora. "It's not very pretty, is it?" he said. "If they're not going to pretty it up, at least they ought to give us carts to ride."
Half-Knickers is an American who, had selected for his golf attire that day a pair of almost incandescent red knickers. The right leg wouldn't stay knicked. He finally said the heck with it and walked around with the end of one knicker leg down around his ankle.