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Swingin' St. Andrews
ALAN SHIPNUCK
July 26, 2010
Auld Grey Toon? Not hardly when those who play and love golf convene at the Old Course for a storied championship, an unmatched communal experience and a ton of fun
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July 26, 2010

Swingin' St. Andrews

Auld Grey Toon? Not hardly when those who play and love golf convene at the Old Course for a storied championship, an unmatched communal experience and a ton of fun

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I've never been in a cemetery at night," Brian Gay said, his eyes as big as full moons. "This is some freaky s---."

Gay had just hopped an old stone wall and was now traipsing through the St. Andrews graveyard with his wife, Kimberly, plus a giddy crew of friends and friends of friends. The weathered headstones were scattered among the old bones of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which was built in the 12th century and looted during the Reformation in 1560. The stone walls were left to decay in the elements, leaving behind spooky ruins. Gay—the down-home Southern boy who won twice on the PGA Tour last year—had other reasons to be suffering the heebie-jeebies. The dank, foggy air was right out of a slasher flick, and the night sky was alive with the nerve-jangling screams of seagulls. A lone bell rang out in the gloaming. It was one o'clock in the morning on Sunday, 6½ hours before the final round of the 139th Open Championship would commence.

This sojourn had been fueled by alcohol—Gay was toting a pint of ale in a glass—and a shared desire to experience all that St. Andrews has to offer, including the chance to commune with the ghosts of golf's past. First stop was the grave of Allan Robertson, who was considered the first great professional golfer before his passing in 1859. Gay mused on the cause of death: "He stabbed himself after missing a cut."

The gallows humor was self-referential. Gay had the weekend off after shooting 72--83 in his first Open at the Old Course. Navigating by the dim illumination of cellphones and a tiny flashlight, the interlopers eventually arrived at the final resting place of the Morris family. Old Tom's grave was satisfyingly no-frills, while Young Tom was memorialized in a life-sized bust. A volunteer was needed to read the inscription celebrating Young Tom, and luckily, Jim Nantz was on hand, as the voice of golf for CBS was enjoying a busman's holiday working an hour a day for the BBC telecast. The crowd hushed, and Nantz's magisterial baritone suddenly brought Young Tom to life:

Deeply regretted by numerous friends and all golfers

He thrice in succession won the champion's belt

And held it without rivalry and yet without envy

His many amiable qualities

Being no less acknowledged

Than his golfing achievements.

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