The Lonely Putter by ghkgkyyt


									                     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
                                           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
                                           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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