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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Bobby Jones and the Caddie From St. Andrews

The people of St. Andrews loved Bobby Jones.  They gave him the Freedom of the Town, an honour only previously bestowed on one other American, Benjamin Franklin.  Bobby loved the people back, and he loved the Old Course.

Bobby played his last round on the Old Course in 1936.  It was meant to be just a casual round, but when word got out that Bobby was going to play, people turned up in droves, about two thousand strong, even closing the shops that they might watch their favourite, adopted son play one more time.

Unbeknownst to Bobby, a match had been arranged with local club professional, Willie Auchterlonie, and Gordon Lockhart, a professional from Gleneagles.  Although Bobby had long since retired, and was out of practice, he went out in 32, inspired by the joy of the occasion, back playing in his favourite place.  While he came home in 40 to shoot 72, no one much cared.  It was a magic day.

To show you what a wonderful man Bobby was, when talking about that round, he remembered an incident at the eighth hole.  He described it in his book, Golf is my Game, as follows:

  "On the eighth tee I was paid the most sincere compliment I can ever remember.  It was one of those things one does not talk about.  I have never mentioned it before, and did not mention it at the Freedom Ceremony.  But since this may be my last utterance on the subject of golf, I must put it down here.
  The eighth hole of St. Andrews is a short hole and the pin this day was tucked in behind a small mound to the right of the usual pathway leading to the front of the green.  Having the honour, I played a soft shot with a number four iron, which faded neatly around the mound and finished some eight or nine feet from the hole.  As I stepped back for Willie to play his shot and to slip my club back in my bag, my caddie, a pleasant-looking young man of about twenty years of age, said to me under his breath, 'My, but you're a wonder, sir.'  I could only smile and pat him on the shoulder.  I do not know his name nor where he is, but I hope he will now understand what pleasure he gave me."

Imagine, all the compliments that Bobby Jones received from other great players, great men of affairs, possibly even royalty, yet this compliment from a young caddie is the one he remembers most.  It speaks volumes about the humility of the man--and his greatness.

And imagine this young caddie; fortunate enough to get Bobby's bag on his last round at the Old Course.  We will never know, but can only surmise that he, too, never forgot the day.  We can imagine him telling his friends and family--maybe his grandchildren -- about caddying for Bobby Jones, and the great shot Bobby hit on number eight.  Did he ever come to understand that he, too, had made such an impression on perhaps the greatest player the game had ever seen?  We'll perhaps never know.