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" John Ball! Surely you...." Hilton shook his head. " Hoylake's finest. Winner of eight Amateur championships between 1888 and 1912. Winner of the 1890 Open Championship at Prestwick. The first amateur or non-Scot to win an Open. The first man to win the Open and the Amateur in the same year. Served in the Cheshire Yeomanry during the Boer War...."
"Oh," I said, feeling lame, "that John Ball."
He waved me off. "Johnnie was seven years older than I, but we attended the same day school. He had many virtues as a player, but the greatest was his natural gift for being almost impervious to outside influences. He did not seem to mind in the slightest whether the spectators ran behind him like frightened rabbits. All he asked for was room to swing his club."
"He was no Monty, then."
"Pardon?" Hilton patted his pockets and frowned.
"I mean, he wasn't like Colin Montgomerie?"
"Oh, that Monty. No, not at all." Hilton seemed momentarily distracted. "Finished with a 6 of his own at Winged Foot, didn't he? Bloody disgraceful." He winked to show he wasn't serious.
I looked out at the tee line, where the children were starting to give way to grownups with shiny clubs and purposeful stares. "Tell me about your Open victories," I said.
He patted his pockets again. "You wouldn't have a cigarette, would you? No?" He grimaced. "They don't allow cigarettes or distilled spirits where I am now. It's hell."