Sunday, September 30, 2007

The mecca of golf

Over the centuries, St. Andrews, Scotland, has been a place of pilgrimage...first for Christians, who came here to pray before the bones of Andrew the disciple (brought here by St. Rule, it's said) and then by those in search of higher learning at St. Andrews College (from which Prince William recently graduated.)

Now, of course, they come for golf.

That was the draw for Bob Armstrong and wife Linda Aaker of Houston (he the former Assistant Secretary of the Interior under Clinton), who brought son Will as a combo 75th birthday present for Bob and college graduation present for Will.

"It's wonderful,'' said Bob.

"It took Scotland to make me fall in love with golf,'' said Linda.

The trio played King Barnes, Carnoustie and of course, The Old Course.

The Old Course is said to be the first place that golf was played with holes, according to spokesman for the St. Andrews Links Trust. But it's not the only course in town; the Trust manages six currently ... for players from children to the pros...and will open a seventh next year.

And yes, these are public courses. And yes, women are allowed (just not in the private Royal and Ancient Golf Club overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course.)

As a nongolfer, I'm surprised to find myself actually interested in all this. That the sport mastered by Tiger Woods was begun by a bunch of bored shepherds hundreds of years ago who used their crooks to push stones into rabbit holes, well, that's pretty entertaining.

But better is the town of St. Andrews, bubbling with college kids -- about 4,000 of them -- and picturesquely crowned by ruins of a great cathedral toppled in the 1550s after reformationist John Knox incited the masses. And it's still a fishing village (lobster mostly, not that I ever got one.) All in all, quite a place.

Even if you don't care about golf.

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