Unfortunately, Robertson had retired and removed himself to Edinburgh. I didn't have to ask when this had happened; the event was recorded at the pavilion in language any archaeologist would understand.
The two young Scots continued their friendly game. The competition dated back 10 years and was still keen, judging from the occasional baleful look MacPhee directed heavenward. ("The language can get very bad, very blue," Macinnes said.) They favored match play almost exclusively, honoring the time-honored Scottish belief that no round of golf should be spoiled by one or two bad holes.
MacPhee added: "And he still can't beat me!"
They had answers for most of my questions about the machair: the rabbits, the horizontal rains of winter, the ancient cattle pens overgrown with springy grass. MacPhee explained the dead crows on the fence: The gamekeeper traditionally displays his trophies to show the lord of the manor he is doing his job.
On one hole, MacPhee was searching in the long grass for his ball when he exclaimed, "Oh, look!" He turned back the grass so I could see the tight brown nest I had almost stepped on. In the nest were three tiny blue eggs.
"Be starlings, "Macinnes said.
Of Old Tom Morris the two young men knew considerably less. The prehistory of Askernish—that dismal era preceding Robertson's Camelot—was to them the stuff of musty books and graveyards. If 1991 marked a centennial, though, they assured me there would be a celebration. "Just the two of us," MacPhee said, smiling at the thought. "This golf course is our pride and joy."
On we walked—the Scots playing their ancestral game, the American observing.
"There's a rumor that he's coming back," MacPhee said, preparing to hit off the 9th tee.
I was watching my wife drive through the gate, the windshield flashing gold in the falling sun. Swooping lapwings formed a crown above the car.