certainly," he responded. "The first came to me at Muirfield in 1892.
It was the first time the Open was played at 72 holes, and the trophy more or
less landed in my lap. I holed two mashie pitches, and to be honest, Muirfield
was little more than a drive-and-pitch course in those days. To me it seemed
silly to win the open event before the amateur, and it took me years to
understand that I had secured the bigger prize before the lesser. I quite
agreed with those who said I was lucky to win."
"But you won
it again at Hoylake in '97."
"Yes, and in
the third round I did my best to throw the championship in the gutter. I played
the most weak-kneed golf and took no less than 84, which relegated me from
second to fifth position. I went to lunch a very sick and peevish man." He
looked up at the clouds and put a finger to his lips. "I can't say that
this affected my lunch, as on top of a lamb joint...."
I didn't have time
to hear him recount the menu, so I tapped the table to snap him out of his
point, yes. In any event I went around in 75 in the afternoon, which was quite
good. But James Braid still had a chance. I went out to watch him, but after a
couple of holes and maybe a dozen cigarettes I couldn't take the strain. So I
wandered back to the clubhouse and tried to take an intelligent interest in the
newspapers. I was still reading when a relative sat down near me and said, 'You
must not be disappointed if you do not win. That man Braid is a very fine
player.' Apparently Braid had made a 4 on the Field hole, which was
nothing to settle my nerves, so I repaired to the billiard room and played with
a friend. From the club window I saw the enemy take a 6 on the 16th hole, and
that gave me the courage to wander back out to see the finish. The first thing
I heard was, 'He needs a 3 to tie!' I felt quite a brave man again, as the last
hole at Hoylake was always a good 4 and an exceptional 3, and the wind was
against Braid. But in his long career he probably never played a finer stroke
than his second. It was never off the pin. Fortunately for me the green was as
keen as a skating rink, and his ball kept trickling along and did not stop
until it was maybe eight yards beyond. He missed that very difficult putt, and
victory was mine."
Hilton turned in
his chair so he could share my view of the range. "Of all my championship
successes, I have always looked back on that one with the greatest degree of
satisfaction," he said. "It suggested that my win at Muirfield was not
He abruptly stood
up. "Thank you for the tea. I imagine you'll be wanting to resume your
jumped up, stopping him in his tracks. "That thing you said about where
you, er, live now--about there being no cigarettes or liquor. I can't believe
that there's a place in hell for Open champions."
isn't," Hilton said with a knowing smile. "It's for golf