The Man Who Missed the Ball on the First Tee at St Andrews

This 1925 pen, ink and watercolor painting is by Henry Mayo Bateman (1887-1970).HMB

To stand on the first tee at the Old Course is, for a golfer, one of the most knee-shaking experiences there could be. I first played the course in the fall of 2006 — shot an 83 — when I went to the University of St Andrews to do some post-graduate study. Every golfer has seen the British Open (the “Open Championship”) played at St Andrews on TV. But nothing prepares you for the traumatic experience of standing there, just a few yards from the R&A building.

(If you are new to this site, you should see the pages called “My Day at the R&A” and “Golf Literati Dinner” which are both amazing stories. If you are partial to golf fiction, you may wish to read “A Niblick in Time”, my homage to P.G. Wodehouse.)

So as to get acclimated before classes began, I arrived in Scotland a few weeks early. The first thing I did was to walk to the Old Course from my flat nearby, and take it all in. There I was, a 54-year old college lecturer, trying to cross off the #1 item on my bucket list, and shaking like a leaf. Since I was a teenager it had been my dream to go to Scotland. My last name is Douglass, a variant of the ancient Scottish clan name, Douglas. Bagpipes, broadswords, kilts, the Highlands — I had to go. As I was getting up in years, and after hearing my doctor preach incessantly about blood pressure, it sounded as if the trip should be made before it was too late.

I quit my job teaching business courses at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, sold my house and my car, said goodbye to my friends, and moved to Scotland. It was my intention to earn a PhD and then stay in Scotland and teach. (It did not turn out that way.)

This story is a very long, and I think, fascinating one, but instead of telling it all here, I will fast forward and tell you that if you have not yet been to Scotland to play golf — and of course in St Andrews — you really should. Please send your thoughts and comments. I would love to hear from you.


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