Of Kilties and Stymies: A Long Golfing Life Re-examined

 

My dad passed away almost exactly one year ago this week, so I’m marking the anniversary with a sampling of the scorecards he saved over the years. They were handed down posthumously, in a shoebox, along with other golfing trinkets and memorabilia. The cards form a useful trail of crumbs, which, if followed and elaborated upon, inform us re. the man and his  seven decades in the game. The first post can be found here.

• Pinehurst No. 2, Pinehurst, N.C., circa 1974: I’m dating this round by the vintage of Sansabelt slacks modeled on the front of this scorecard. This most decorated of the Pinehurst courses has just undergone a thorough retrofitting from Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who endeavored (as most course renovators do) to restore the “original vision” of Donald Ross (read: lots of exposed sand and scrub). This picture shows the 1970s incarnation and it couldn’t have been further from that purported vision: bright green, overseeded fairways flanked everywhere by wall-to-wall dormant Bermuda. Glad the Old Man got to play and brag about playing No. 2, even at its likely design nadir. News Flash: He shot 83, as he did by default nearly everywhere he played for the first time. A maddeningly steady player, he was… If the course had featured more sand when he played there, my dad would have made frequent use of The Meat Hook, the club he deployed for years as his sand wedge. There was nothing written on this unique club, no markings at all. It was notably heavy, antiquated and rust-colored (this was real oxidation mind you, as it was rendered long before coppery wedges became fashionable). There was something faintly menacing and mysterious about it — a Stealth Wedge, if you will. My dad exploded with a full swing nearly every sand shot around the greens, and he was pretty good at it. He never picked the ball with a smaller, steeper swing imparting serious spin, which is a limiting strategy, of course. He was apparently beguiled by the act of blasting balls from bunkers via the power of The Meat Hook, which he never played  from anywhere but a bunker, which, again, was limiting. He opened his pitching wedge when he wanted to flop something. It was old school, but there’s just no comparing what one can do with a proper sand wedge, with a heel, as I told him many times as a precocious teen and for decades afterward. My dad was nevertheless highly competent around the greens. His misses were never that bad, and he could routinely get up and down from green side with a bumped 5- or 6-iron. In a sense, his short game was what you’d expect from a 12-14 handicap, whereas he was a 7-8 tee to green. His putting followed this form: a decent lag putter but didn’t make a lot of putts, it seemed to me. He wore a glove and never removed it to putt, as many folks do. I think that removal routine seemed to him an affectation — like the kilties he routinely removed from his golf shoes, long before they went out of style completely. My dad was no fashion plate, far from it. But here we must give him credit for being ahead of the curve.

Old Orchard CC, Long Branch, N.J., circa 1950: I wish he’d have dated this one, because he shot 75 (bogeying the par-5s that opened and closed the round; the only sixes on the card) and this was his home course. Was it the first time he broke 80? Or did he keep it because this was his career best here? Was it merely the first time he ever went really low? He couldn’t have been more than 15, as this card would appear older — in its wear and more Spartan post-war design — compared to those he saved from roughly the same period. When did the stymie go out? A key question as this card features a stymie measure across the top! It’s my understanding the USGA abolished this arcane rule in 1950, so my dad could have been well younger than 14 when this score was posted. He played with someone identified as E, and the kid shot a big number. There’s little else to work with in terms of historical detail/clues, but he must have kept it for some reason as he played hundreds of rounds at OOCC. Old Orchard wasn’t a fancy place. My dad claimed to have routinely caddied there for local mobsters and found at least one gun in the bag. But my grandparents socialized and played bridge  there, too, so I don’t think there was anything inherently untoward about the place. (Wise guys need a place to play golf, too.) He never held the course up as anything special and it wasn’t. But he was sentimental about it, and this was the only Old Orchard card in the shoebox… There was, however, another card in the box and it’s a curious one. It says “Long Branch Country Club, Eatontown, New Jersey”, which is a village just west of Long Branch, or so Google Maps informs me. But there’s a logo top left that clearly says “Old Orchard Country Club”. I’ve compared the cards and while the yardages do not always match up exactly, it would appear to be the same golf course. My dad and I played Old Orchard together in the late 1980s — maybe the club toyed with a new name at some point? Indeed, The Architects of Golf, the definitive reference guide to all courses built prior to about 1995, lists Long Branch CC, but not Old Orchard (today the club is again known as Old Orchard). This odd Long Branch CC card would appear to be from the 1980s; someone shot 78 but this is the sole score line and the player is not identified (though the writing for all the world looks like mine). I’m thinking this was indeed the round I played with my dad at Old Orchard and an explanation re. the scoring  is likely mundane — probably an in-the-car recounting of the round, by me, because the original card had been left behind.

2 Responses to “Of Kilties and Stymies: A Long Golfing Life Re-examined”

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  1. Mike Cirba

    Long Branch Country Club and Old Orchard are indeed one and the same. It was originally named Long Branch when it opened in around 1929 but was renamed Old Orchard by the mid-30s. It seems as though it was to be a private club but the depression hit and by the 30s it was renamed and opened to public golf. Hope this helps you sort things out with your dad’s collection. Thanks, Mike Cirba

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