It is July 2, 2013 and I’ve arrived in one of my favorite places in the world, St. Andrews, Scotland. Though my Greek genes are dominant, I’m actually half Scottish. Greek mixed with Scot. That means I love links golf and feta cheese, often at the same time.
After checking in at the hotel in St. Andrews the first place my pals and I went was to the Old Course to get on the waiting list. The good news was that I’d be playing the Old with my good friend and caddie John Boyne, and my best friend Al Nelson.
While waiting, John and I were watching players coming home on the 18th hole. Our vantage point was directly behind the green. There’s a small fence there where locals hang out and watch the “gophers” come in.
A ball goes through the green, a “wee bit” hot and settles in some long grass behind the green and about five feet in front of us. The grass is long enough that it has gone to seed. In comes the group, obviously Americans, to survey their shots. The player who hit the long shot is loud and obnoxious. This guy epitomizes the opposite of what I wished we Americans portrayed in foreign countries.
When Mr. Obnoxious American gets to his ball he surveys the situation. He’s presented with 10 inch long grass behind and around his ball and a very tricky, fast shot with a ton of break in it. He reaches down, presumably to move a few loose impediments, but that’s not what he did. Instead, he started pulling the grass right out of the ground. It was no accident. He was improving his lie. John and I were, as they say in the UK, “gobsmacked.” We looked at each other in silent disbelief.
Mr. Obnoxious then walked his line, checking out the break. Upon returning to his ball, as if to confirm to John and me what we weren’t sure we just saw, he started pulling grass again! By now his lie isn’t too bad. He hits quite a good shot which ends up about 14 inches from the cup.
We thought we had seen it all at that point but to our horror, we had not. Mr. Obnoxious then went up to tap his putt in. He stood over it for a second, concentrating, then took a huge swing at the ball and knocked it off the green, nearly to The Links road and the Tom Morris golf shop. Laughing proudly at himself he looked at his group and sarcastically shouted “oops!”
John and I were astonished.
I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “you spend thousands of dollars to go on the golf trip of a lifetime to the Home of Golf. You’ve waited your whole life to get to this place. You are playing the 18th green of the most famous and historic golf course in the world, where every one of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport have played. You then cheat twice by pulling grass from your lie and then sarcastically and intentionally miss your 14 inch finishing putt, in front of the ghost of Old Tom Morris. You never bother to finish the final hole, or the round.”
I know Americans in St. Andrews are a double edge sword. The caddies love us and hate us at the same time. They hate us because of obnoxious jerks like this guy who make us all look bad. They love us because, well, we are the biggest tippers of all the tourists who go to St. Andrews.
I can’t imagine the agony this obnoxious American’s poor caddie had to endure, and the wee tip he probably received for his services. Surely the prior 17.5 holes must have been a nightmare. Who knows what other asinine things this guy did or said. Somehow I wish I could buy the caddie, hell, the rest of this guy’s group, a wee pint to kill the pain.
To my friends and caddies in Scotland: we’re not all like that.