WALTER J. TRAVIS, EDITOR THE LONELY PUTTER A Contemplation ——–— BY HENRY LEACH A LONELY PUTTER is a dismal thing seven of them in a single day and that for the contemplation of a man of a day of competition? Yet for all his generous human sympathy and under- grand establishment of putters he standing. He perceives the pathos of would not part with any of them and the situation; he knows that of all the we must admire him as a golfer ac- clubs in the golfer's equipment the cordingly. He knows and loves them putter comes to most intimacy with its all. And yet while, as we say, the man. A driver is just a driver, and putter that once passes through the often a precious thing; so with the tests of the novitiate with him and is irons. But the putter, for all its accepted as one of the great family, vexations, is a thing of the confidence, perhaps being prime favourite for a of the affections. It is as if it knows while, has a home forever, he has in the and understands. most exceptional circumstances been Few men ever part with a putter known to part with one of the fairest which has once established itself in of them, a gentle, aristocratic French- their collection even though it may polished wooden putter of exquisite have been discarded after a season or balance and such points as would sat- less. There are reversions; in any isfy Mr. John Low himself. This case there has been too much intimacy putter was indeed added to my own between man and club in such a case inferior but still comprehensive lot, for them ever to be utterly and com- and, though not treated as a matter pletely parted. of bargaining, it was sufficiently evi- In the house of the old golfer there dent that it came to me in recognition are often many putters. There may of a loan I had made to its original be nearly a hundred of them. It is a owner of a lovely putter of magic strange contemplation, but it is true. parts at the crisis of a championship Do we not know of the case of the with authority to apply a hammer to great golfer who had not merely his it for the straightening somewhat of hundred putting instruments, but used its lie. 848 THE AMERICAN GOLFER BUT IT IS of lonely ones we come pany in a corner by the fireplace now to speak, though these slight rem- where many a good putter instals itself iniscences of affection and intimacy be- in times of peace, or in a bag along tween man and putter serve for in- with others, but it should not be al- troduction. Is there not told the story lowed to lie about anywhere, or be of an important two-thousand mile thrown carelessly in a cupboard. The journey being postponed and the lieutenant would not like to know of whole of a little community being such neglect. He might ask if it were thrown into chaos and despair because for such disrespect to things he liked the chief putter was missing? Is that he went out to the wars. It is a there not the affair of the man who good rule for wives, mothers and sis- travelled specially from the Highlands ters, that if they love the lieutenant— to London and back again at a cost or whate'er he be—they should love of some ten sovereigns and the loss his putter too. in time of about thirty hours in order B UT OF ALL putters in such strain- to pick from the collection in his de- ing times as these, surely that is most serted house—for it was August and pathetically situated whose master is the servants were on "board-wages"— at the war and which has no home the putter that he knew by instinct whatever for the time being, is looked would be as his salvation—and eureka ! at and is pitied by the passers-by, is was. sometimes touched by them, and to The putter and the old jacket, they which I have heard them say, "Poor have their places in the golfer's heart. thing!" This is not fancy, or a pretty Odd fancies, as we know, flit through tale, but simple fact of war. There the minds of men at the fighting front may be added to it this, that the state during grim hours that are lived of the putter of which we speak is so through there, and when learned that forlorn that it has even been noticed such seeming trivialities as these oc- by those who have nothing to do with cupy their minds. The players there this game and do not, except by quick have thought at times of their old instinct, understand the affections that putters as of the other almost semi- may exist. We do not know that the animate things of home that they master of this putter is at the war; treasure and some day will fondle we merely guess at it, but yet we again. They have put it to themselves guess with that same confidence that (we have reason to know that they permits us to forecast the rising of to- have) in the simple way that comes morrow's sun. In no other circum- naturally to strong men at such times stances could the old putter possibly that there are putters waiting for them. be in the case that it is. If its master We know it because an expression were dead it would have been taken much to that effect appears in the let- away long ago. ters of two men in khaki who have The loneliest putter I have ever written home from a place out there. seen, this one, is in a stick and um- That, then, allows almost a little brella stand in the hall of one of the pathos to the case of the putter that most important social clubs. There are stays at home. It seems almost like twelve openings or compartments in the master's dog. It is best that it this stand which is an auxiliary affair should be kept in some sort of com- and is situated somewhat privately THE AMERICAN GOLFER 849 round a corner of the hall, and the have been doing at Petrograd in the lonely putter usually occupies one at morning, it gives us speedily an ac- the left hand corner. Sometimes in count of the stirring scenes in the the day it has a few canes and um- French Chamber of Deputies by the brellas for company, but it is little the Seine and of the interrogations by the better for that. It looks no less for- ministers at Westminster and the min- lorn, and seems of an ill sort in com- isters' haughty answers as of men who pany. On the fine days, even now in know their righteousness. When there the war, there comes a galaxy of fancy are races it gives us the result of walking sticks to this stand. They them; in old times of peace it was; have shining surfaces, and pretty a frequent occurrence for chronicles, handles, with bits of silver about their of golf to be made upon this hurrying necks. The lonely putter seems tape. The progress of the amateur strangely situated then amidst so much championship was set forth, there were aristocracy of wood. It is nearly al- some details of what the ladies did at ways in a corner of the stand, and so Ranelagh, and Taylor, Braid and Var- is somewhat hidden by this gay crowd. don were familiar material for this When the luncheon time and the hour machine. Two or three times a week afterwards have passed away, and the there would be the names of these gay butterfly crowd of walking sticks worthies, and after the names of each have pattered off down the busy street, of them would be eighteen figures in two lines of nine each, and a grand the lonely putter is left again with a total at the end of each series. The couple of old umbrellas that have been tape machine was very well accustomed forgotten for a week or two, and in to this golf scoring for the champions, this solitude it assuredly seems better and with the same facility that it set situated. down the closing prices at the Stock There is not the most absolute sil- Exchange, that strange medley of fig- ence ; there is a peculiar music which ures with eighths and sixteenths, and must be particularly grateful to the the names of strange railways at lonely one if it has a little of the con- which, if you ever travel far in the sciousness with which we credit things United States, you will wonder at and that are so intimate with their human feel much interested in seeing the titles owners. Very near to the stand in again and that the railways really which it is held, not more than three exist. Even now in war we see the club lengths away, there are two ma- names of the old champions on the chines that go tick-ticking all the day tape again, and one almost fancies that and nearly all the night, with brief the ticker is glad to give them a intervals when the fountains of news turn, one which they well deserve for are waiting for a fresh supply. These the war charity golf they have been are the tape machines as we call them, playing. the wonderful instruments which, worked by some unseen hand far away IN THE OLD TIMES when their deeds in the big city, tick off on bands of were a matter of daily consideration paper in type-like characters all the there was no lonely putter here in the newest news of all the world, hot from gloomy hall to listen to the ticking. its very source. It tells in the after- It was out in the sunshine, was soled noon what the unhappy revolutionists on the greens and was tapping the 850 THE AMERICAN GOLFER ball on its way to the waiting cup. away being ticked continually in this Those were more anxious times, per- hall in town. haps, than now, but there was a cer- tain degree of satisfaction in the effort. I T MAY BE SAID that we are assum- With but a little imagination and ing a deep affection without the def- sympathy you may conceive that there inite knowledge. It can hardly be so. is something peculiarly pathetic in the The very fact of the putter being here, lonely putter being here now, listen- lonely, away from all its old associates, ing, as it were, to the ticking of the suggests that special care and interest tape machine with its intelligence from were generally taken in it. It had every part of the world. There is been brought there for a special pur- news continually from the Italian front pose; it was wanted. It had been taken from the bag. Perhaps it had showing what fine things those Latin been shown to someone. It must have Allies are doing against the Austrian been at the beginning of the war, and enemy, every night and morning there such were the excitement and the comes the official reports from French hurry then that one can well under- and British headquarters, indicating stand how it came to be left here. the great things that have been done There are evidences upon it of the re- and the progress that has been made. gard in which it was held, and many Almost hourly there is news of some more of its most extensive use. It is new feature of America's mighty ef- an aluminium putter of the Braid- fort. Now and then there is a line, Mills variety. pregnant with great suggestion, from Taking it from its present receptacle Mesopotamia. Besides the official and handling it in a sympathetic way, notes, there are from time to time what old memories do not this very purple patches of the narratives of name and style recall! That Braid- stirring incidents in the war, heroic Mills variety became greatly popular, deeds, glorious sacrifices. Alas! day perhaps more so than any other, but by day the tale of the brief statements I think its time was spent before the of the uttermost sacrifices has to be war, and somehow I do not fancy a told. In all that struggle for a world boom in this pattern when next putters to be good and free, the lieutenant who become of like importance as guns. owns the putter is playing his part I never loved this pattern; it seemed away on one of the shrieking fronts; such a stodgy and ungraceful thing. something that he and those with him Perhaps I should not say it, because have done must be ticked off here from the king of his model, the acknowl- time to time—within those three clubs- edged chief of all of them, is in my lengths of the lonely putter. Let us possession with a silver plate tacked hope that there will never be ticked to its shaft. James Braid, who knows an odd last line or two that would how to make putting a matter of me- make it so much more than lonely. chanism and careful arrangement if Perhaps it is a stupid fancy, but one any man does, thought out the design cannot help thinking that it is some- of the Braid-Mills putter, evolving it how an odd linking up of things, with from the longer, flatter-headed alum- that old and very favourite club along- inium putters that Mr. Mills was side this machine, and the news of the making for us on the model of the soldiers' work and achievement so far old wooden beauties. It is this orig- THE AMERICAN GOLFER 851 inal model that always most appealed a medium lie, and a driver face, and to me, and not only because the best the weight of the head is ten ounces and most fateful putt I ever did was and two drams, marked upon it. That done successfully with one of them. is what you might call a fair all round Braid took one of the new models of putter, though with aluminium the his own designing, did little things to vertical driver face is always rather a the face in the way of filing added an dangerous thing, and, like Braid, I be- inch to the end of the stick to change lieve firmly in more loft in such a the balance, and generally treated it case. The aluminium sets the ball off with files and chisels and so forth like with a great speed, permitting you little the master craftsman and golfer that control over it. Some control must be he is, until it was just exact, for his established by the loft of the face, own smooth, splendid, putting way. and that was one of the chief features When that state of contentment had of Braid's design, for he established a been reached, Braid went to the Open deep face and laid it back, so that even Championship at Prestwick, and won with aluminium he was able to put it with the lowest score that ever a much drag upon the ball. If you apply championship was won by, and after a large block of this metal and a quite finer putting than had ever been done perpendicular face to a modern golf in any golfing event. ball, the latter will shoot along the When I begged a boon of him he green like one possessed, and attempts gave me the pick of his bag, but was at putting become ridiculous. How- dismayed when I took the putter. ever, the lonely putter is not by any "Alas!" said he, "to-morrow I must means so bad as that, but when the play in an exhibition match"—some- lieutenant comes home again, if he where about Glasgow, I think it was— finds himself putting badly, he might "and wherewith shall I putt?" I was almost be recommended to try a shade unsympathetic; I suggested the nib- more loft. lick. Late on the following evening I sat in London again, and read in BUT THIS MEDDLING with other peo- the evening paper of the golf that had ple's putters and their putting fancies been played that day. Somewhere in has always been found to be a most the north James Braid had broken the dangerous thing. One who undertakes record of a course, and had accom- it embraces a fine prospect of making plished the most marvellous putting enemies, and small one of gaining a friend. It is an interference in the too ever seen in those parts. And just to intimate domestics. Just as well might think that the old man had done that you go to give a man warning of his with a new putter, just freshly bought! sweetheart, or even indeed of his very However, it did not change the fact wife. Do these things if you must, that the one of his I had was the but be sure you will pay a price for greatest of its class, the king of its good intention. So have a care if you kind. are coming between a golfer and his The lonely putter in the hall is of putter. The lieutenant knows the pe- that same strain. It is much the same culiarities of this odd thing of his kind of club, though somehow, hav- very well; it has not been a putter of ing handled it, I care less for its bal- occasional use. There are many marks ance than for that of the king. It has and scratches upon it, and the grip 852 THE AMERICAN GOLFER is well worn. The end of it, at the top sweet sorrow of regret for the good of the shaft, must have been coming times that have gone. A new club untacked just when the Huns sprang we like is a splendid thing, but it is loose, for the leather has since become not so good as one of the old, old unwound for some inches. time. He will like to see it, but when Men who pass by this stand are the war is over all our ideas are to be often attracted to this lonely putter— changed, our methods, our acts. Golf men who know and understand. You is to be changed, too, so they say. see them take it from its compartment, In any case you would hardly expect grip it and sole it on the marble floor, a man to play in the same way and make a little swing with it as if ac- with the same ideas after more than complishing an imaginary putt, and three years of war as he did before. then remark, "Nice old putter this !" There will be a fresh starting. Most or "I think I could run them in with of the old clubs certainly will be em- such a putter!" Those are the things ployed, but there will be new ways— one always thinks. And then when old ones revived. Square stances, as they put it back again, a thought oc- they were, may have become open, men curs to them, and there is a moment- who crouched, or "sat down," to their ary gleam of sad consciousness in their ball as was said, may stand stiff and eyes. In this upset old world, when we straight, and will hit hard. I am afraid, no longer writhe at the knowledge of indeed, that there will be much hard awful slaughter, the emotions some- hitting, more than ever there was be- times have it for an instant—until we fore, and that the actions of the pas- feel we must be cold and practical time will not be more graceful for it. and as materialistic as we may, accord- And somehow I fancy that men will ing to the new way of things. But I take more to plain iron putters after have heard men say in the way we the war; and great putting, the putting know, "I wonder whom that old putter one delights in when fully the master belongs to now. . . . Perhaps . . . of the ball upon the green, is best yes, very likely. Well, good luck to done after all with wood or iron, and him!" for my own part, in defiance of the There is a feeling that the lieutenant, testimony of the ancients, I believe in when he comes home again, will be de- iron. But we shall hope there are no lighted to see the old putter once more. disappointments ahead for the lonely Surely so. It is one of the pleasures putter. Were it so, the romance of the of increasing age and experience in story would be spoiled, and these are golf that we look upon the old clubs times one must try to believe in faith- of our early years with a strange fulness. So we imagine that the end warm affection not unmixed with that of the time of waiting is at hand.
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