• Alistair Tait

A world of lasting golf friendships


It was with a certain degree of nostalgia mixed with a few tears that I wrote yesterday’s blog about the late great Dougie Lowe. There was a certain degree of frustration too.


Friends and colleagues got in touch to tell me their own stories of Dougie. Fellow Scot and good friend Jim Black did a great job of regaling the congregation at Dougie’s funeral 10 years ago with many of these stories. Therein lies the frustration part of the second sentence: so many stories of a man’s life but hard to convey in one single blog.


It further reminds me that this game lends itself to great story telling, yet fewer and fewer seem to be told every year. Instead we seem to suffer from a barrage of noise from so many sources in the age of the 220-word drivel post and click-bait crap.


How would Dougie have handled this age when, like so many, he took pride in crafting his prose? Could he even have cleared his throat in 220 words? Would he even have become the Herald’s golf writer considering he graduated from sub editor on the paper’s copy desk? Sub editor? Many newspapers no longer have those.


And with golf writers grounded due to financial reasons, would Dougie even have covered as many tournaments now as he did then? Probably not. Budgets were so tight even in his day he sometimes paid his own airfare to fly to tournaments. How's that for dedication?


I think back to the first Amateur Championship I covered, the 1994 tournament at Nairn, setting for this year’s championship. England’s Lee James defeated Gordon Sherry in the final, and every major newspaper covered it – Scottish and English papers. I seem to remember having dinner with about 15 writers of an evening, all the heavy hitters from the broadsheets and tabloids. At the last Amateur I covered, the 2018 championship at Royal Aberdeen, the entire press corps – myself, Colin Callander, and two local scribes – sat in the same wee room overlooking the first tee with R&A staff. The previous year myself and Callander were the only two journalists to witness Harry Ellis win in a thrilling comeback over Australia’s Matthew Perry at Royal St George’s. And we both worked for American publications at the time.


For some reason after talking to friends about Dougie, I turned to one of my favourite books in my golf library – “Forgive Us Our Press Passes: The History of the Association of Golf Writers – to read about the exploits of the early pioneers of the golfing press The stories, the writing, in this book are first class. They harken back to a bygone age, the tail end of which Dougie managed to grab on to. Take the tribute to former Scotsman golf writer Frank Moran, who followed doyen Bernard Darwin as the association’s president, a role he held from 1948–1976.


In 1963, the Scotsman celebrated Moran’s 50th year as a golf writer. Fifty years? Some modern golf writers don’t even get five minutes!


Here’s the opening paragraphs of that tribute:

“Never tell Frank Moran that golf is a trivial game, unworthy of the pen of a thinker. He knows that golf has the tragedy of a Tolstoian novel, mingled with the bubbling mirth of a short story by Stephen Leacock. It is a hectic, taut, edgy world where nerves can snap like violin strings, where top stars plummet like spent matches from the glowing firmament and where even years of hard, competitive striving and hair trigger control are no proof against curious and outrageous failures in the mechanics of the game, occurring somewhere in the blurred limbo between the backswing and the downswing.”

Brilliant stuff. The third paragraph of that tribute is what had me thinking about Dougie again today.

“While it is a world of high drama, passion and poetry; of last green tears and triumphs; of broken hearts, reputations and temper twisted clubs and players, it is also a world of lasting friendships, peaceful, halcyon, heraldic days of green and gold with balls droppings greenwards like a benison from the gods, with brisk morning-tee freshness, the unforgettable end-of-the day scent of muddy shoes in the locker room and the thankful clutch of the nineteenth hole bracer.”

"A world of lasting friendships." That’s why we play golf, the real reason why some of us enjoying writing about this game.


Anyway, enough nostalgia. On to far more important stuff: has Bryson managed to drive Bay Hill’s par-5 sixth hole yet?


#JustSaying: “Frank Moran was awarded the MBE for his services to golf journalism and died in 1975 aged 90.” From Forgive US Our Press Passes

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