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Poems from Francis Kerr Young

In Canada you may hear this tale
where golfers congregate
in taverns o'er some cold draft ale,
they sup and exaggerate.
But this tale's true for the man I knew
fought a curse which could plague us all -
and it's coming to a club near you:


Alexander Home began his career as an apprenticed watchmaker and continued in the craft for a fair number of years until circumstances allowed him to purchase his own jewellers’ shop. Gems, particularly diamonds, fascinated him so much so, that the lore of gemology was a thirst that could not be quenched. It wasn't too long before he sold his shop to become a diamond broker. While travelling across the globe in search of exquisite stones was a lucrative occupation, his wife could not tolerate his continual absences so she left him, taking their five-year-old son with her.

Two years later his wife was killed in a traffic accident. By this time, Home was a fairly rich man. He decided to settle down and lavish his knowledge, skills and wealth on his son's upbringing. The small town of Lanark in Scotland, the birthplace of his grandfather, offered peace and seclusion between its back streets and lanes, with rustic names like North or South Vennel and Friars Wynd. The local golf course, set in the picturesque surroundings of Tinto Hills was particularly challenging, and he took to the sport with the same acumen as his former business.

Once or twice a year Home would take his son with him on vacation, providing it didn't interfere with the boy's studies. It was usually somewhere where gems could be acquired at bargain prices.

Alexander Home Junior (Sandy) grew up emulating his father's skills and surpassed him in the craft of watchmaking. The large sandstone house near Charing Cross had a pair of adjacent rooms converted to serve as a modern workshop with state-of-the-art micro-optics and computer machinery. School followed by university had been a breeze for Sandy. When classes had ended, the youth either was in the workshop or finishing the last nine holes with his father.

At twenty-three Sandy had now reached a crossroads in his life. What to do? He had majored in micro-engineering and computer programming, and had also shown a lot of promise on the Lanarkshire golf circuits. His boyhood tramps in all kinds of weather around Upper Clydesdale, across the moors and hills of bracken and heath had given him the strength and stamina for the sport. The ever changeable Scottish climate had also given his lightly freckled face a ruddy hue which complimented his grey eyes and reddish-brown hair. Although his height was slightly below average, his stocky build made him physically attractive to women but he never made any romantic ties.

Soon realising that he was a bit of an introvert, it didn't take more than one or two dates before women dropped Sandy like a hot brick. Some gold diggers would sponge off him for a while, relying on his generosity but soon even they made short shrift of him. He always appeared tense in the company of people and in conversation, his humour verged towards sarcasm.

Sandy had a lone wolf attitude with a stubborn streak and took umbrage at anyone who made the mistake of offering him advice, particularly on golf. He was a dour young man that smiled only when his perverse sense of humour became activated in the process of cheating at games. Ever since leaving elementary school, the thrill of winning by devious means had always been particularly challenging, even though he had the intelligence and skill for most types of sport or competition. The young man would go to great lengths so that he wouldn't get nabbed for cheating, and far outweighed his efforts to try and win by fair play.

His present standing in the local golf circuits, albeit through honesty, was climbing towards the point where professional golf would be the next logical step. His short-tempered attitude had not gone unnoticed by the golf sages who indelicately referred to him as yon wee crabbit bastard!

Sandy had done well in the Golf Order of Merit tournaments during the year: second place in the Newlands Trophy at Lanark; fourth and fifth place respectively in the Lanarkshire Championships at Carluke and the Orbiston Saver at Bellshill. He had also finished in the top ten in two other Clydesdale District tournaments (the Cadzow Trophy at Hamilton and the Bothwell Quaich at Bothwell Castle), all of which earned him Merit points. The crowning glory for the year came for him a month ago when he won the McKee Cup at Shotts. The cup was presented to him by that year's winner of the Scottish Open, a Canadian named Walter Graham.

Unlike some Canadians who tend to be brash and outgoing, Graham had a quiet pleasant manner and was always willing to offer advice, particularly to young folk who showed promise in the sport. He was in his early forties, almost six feet tall and lean, with short ginger hair tinged with grey.

On learning that Sandy hailed from Lanark, Graham had remarked on the coincidence that he also came from the town of Lanark but in Ontario. Early in life he had moved to Hamilton by Lake Ontario to work in the steel mills before turning professional. As his reputation grew, Graham accepted the position of Assistant Pro at King's Forest Golf Club in Hamilton where amateurs and experienced players could now benefit from his tips and instructions when he wasn't playing on the circuits. The Canadian's love for the sport inspired courtesy from his associates for he sincerely believed it was a gentleman's game.

The liquid celebration which followed the presentation ended in a low key when Mr. Graham hinted to Sandy that he should consider relaxing on the links a little more if he wished to go professional. He also offered to show him a couple of the finer points on putting. When Home obnoxiously told him to mind his own business, the club secretary discreetly escorted the youth to the door. The following week Graham returned to Canada and achieved fourth place in the Canadian Open at Glen Abbey.

Yet the art of relaxation was furthest from Sandy's mind every time he played for there was always some kind of ploy simmering at the back of his mind. Sooner or later he would show them all. His chance came literally out of the blue.

Sandy had just seen his father off from Glasgow Airport on another one of his periodic gem hunting trips when he bumped into Charlie Rodgers, an old classmate from grammar school. Charlie was trundling an airport hand cart overladen with his luggage. When his parents had left Scotland to seek greener pastures in the New World, Charlie had been a pale lanky kid with tousled mousey hair. While his stature had increased to its present height of six feet three inches, his girth had appeared to have shrunk.

The two men greeted each other enthusiastically, shaking hands and grinning with pleasure. Sandy reflected on the disparaging nickname, Hercules, which had been allotted to Charlie in college and the standard comment of how he had to run around in the shower to get wet. His hair was no longer tousled but had thinned considerably and was combed back in oil-darkened parallel lines.

"Herc!" exclaimed Sandy. "Still as skinny as ever!"

Charlie retaliated, "Hi, Carrothead! Still got the wee rosy cheeks, I see!" His long bony fingers pinching Sandy's cheek.

"Hey! Take it easy!" protested Sandy, ruefully rubbing his face. He picked up an attache case from the floor and chucked it onto the luggage cart. "Where are you headed?"

"Still a wee crabbit bastard!" observed Rodgers, then answered Home. "Glasgow Hilton. I'm here on business."

"Come on then. I'll give you a lift." offered Sandy as they passed through the exit doors of the airport. He pointed to a silver-grey Volvo in the parking lot across the road. "That's my car right over there."

"So what kind of business are you in?" asked Sandy loading the luggage into the trunk of his car.

"Plastic . . Vinyl . . . Anything synthetic." replied Charlie, taking the attache case from his dour benefactor. "I'll take this in the front with us and show you."

It started to rain and continued to pour quite heavily. As they sat in the car waiting for the shower to let up, Charlie opened his case and removed a large tome containing different coloured sample pages of vinyl. Each sheet was twelve inches square and about one sixteenth of an inch thick. Home reached over and felt the texture of the materials. Some of the pages were smooth on top with a white dimpled underside.

"That's pretty neat," said Sandy. "What do you use this stuff for - covering chairs?"

"Yes - it can be use for that purpose," conceded his companion. "Have you got a knife? I want to show you something."

"In the glove compartment . . . It's open."

Rodgers popped the door open and rummaged through a paraphernalia of maps and assorted tools. He withdrew a long thin screwdriver with a chisel tip.

"This will do," he said manipulating a catch on the spine of the tome which released the top sample of vinyl. Charlie placed his right hand on the dashboard and covered it with the sheet. "Here," he said to Home, giving him the screwdriver. "Try and stab my hand through the vinyl."

Sandy took the screwdriver limply. "Gerra away!" he cried in astonishment. "I don't want hurt you!"

Charlie smiled knowingly. "You won't hurt me, Sandy. I can assure you on that."

After a little coaxing, Home reluctantly agreed and tried a half-hearted prod his friend's hand.

"Harder!" ordered Rodgers.

Sandy jabbed a little harder.

"Gimme the damned thing!"

Rodgers snatched the screwdriver from his friend and proceeded to stab his own hand with full force. The material was unmarked. He held his hand close to Sandy's face to be examined for injury. All the skin on the back of his hand showed just a tinge of red but no wound. The force had been evenly distributed through the material before expending its residue to the hand.

Home was impressed, very impressed, and it showed. Sandy asked if there was any pain. Charlie shook his head and said he had only felt some light pressure. By this time, the shower had passed by and Sandy went to pay the parking fee while Charlie returned the empty luggage cart to its rightful place. As he sat in the car waiting for his friend to return, an idea germinated in Sandy's mind. He needed a lot of questions answered in the short journey to the Glasgow Hilton.

But Charlie, talkative as ever, was no problem. He talked even more if that was possible, mainly because he was a salesman, and the main reason for his visit to Britain, to sell his company's product. Even though he was aware of the versatility of its use Charlie was always on the lookout for new ideas.

The material didn't have a name. It was just designated XT-BS2. It could neither be marked, torn nor damaged by any force under normal conditions but could be cut by shears or knives with blades heated to a fairly high temperature. It could be welded or moulded at the same degree of heat provided the process was performed in an inert atmosphere. The material seemed to be indestructible. The dimpled underside as Charlie had dramatically demonstrated, spread the force so that no harm came to the protected object. It had one major drawback, after 2000 hours in sunlight, it would disintegrate.

When Sandy deposited Charlie with his luggage at the Hilton, he asked his friend for a few samples of the material, promising to keep an eye open for prospective customers. Rodgers agreed and gave him some sheets. They shook hands and promised to meet again before Charlie left Britain.

The following weeks went fast. Sandy rarely left his father's workshop testing XT-BS2 under different conditions. He knew that when sudden force was applied to it in a relaxed position, just as on Rodgers' hand, the material absorbed most of the force. When the vinyl was placed in tension around a solid object, most of the energy passing through it was evenly distributed over the entire surface area of the object with absolutely no damage. It also had an amazing resilience against extreme cold and proved to have little loss of memory to its elasticity. Already having the money and the know-how to perfect his idea, he now had the means to construct a smart golf ball.

The heart of this golf ball was based on an electronic principle of the self-winding watch mechanism. This would have the capability of collecting energy from the outer skin of the ball as it spun in flight and store it internally until it would be dispensed at crucial intervals to increase or reduce distance where needed.

The brain consisted of a miniature computer which upon sensing a particular radio signal, evaluated the distance and direction from its source. The speed and/or directional rotation of the spinning ball would be programmed accordingly to give the desired result: delivering the ball from tee to cup with a minimal amount of strokes.

The body or support for the heart and brain assembly was made next. Using a special ceramic clay, Sandy baked a pair of hollow hemispherical shells in an industrial oven. After inspecting the surfaces for defects, the shell halves were cemented together with the combined power-control unit and guidance system inside. Heated to required specifications, a skin of XT-BS2 was formed and moulded around the ceramic ball.

When the smart ball's appearance was compared against a standard golf ball, texture, colour, and size were identical. The only exception was the name, or rather the lack of one. This was easily remedied by painting the word, Sandbagger, in extremely fine script on opposite sides of the ball. The vinyl code XT-BS2 was added to give the impression of a manufacturer's code. In case of some unforeseen mishap, two more balls were made to this design.

Eighteen tiny radio transmitters or bugs designed to send on the same frequency, were fabricated to fit inside the cup on every green. These bugs were just under an inch in diameter and implanted with a series of black diodes which at a passing glance, looked like small holes. Since the locations of each cup are changed regularly to reduce wear on turf, a strong magnet was needed to keep each bug in position during these movements.

A transponder was needed to interrupt the radio signals because a few greens on Lanark Golf Course lie adjacent to one another. The smart ball could be confused by two radio signals of equal strength and be directed into the rough or worse, landing on the wrong green. It would be safer to switch off all transmissions and play the hole as normal until distance dictated that communication could be re-established. The transponder was further adapted to monitor the exact distance and compass direction from the ball on the off chance that it became lost. This device was designed to fit comfortably inside his wristwatch and subsequent information displayed on its LED screen. The educated ball was ready for a trial run.

The summer solstice hailed the completion of the smart balls. Sandy had just more than two weeks in which to set up his transmitters and iron out the bugs. Under the rose-hue cover of a spectacular Scottish gloaming, Sandy plodded around Lanark Golf Course installing button-type transmitters inside the cups, making sure that they were securely hidden. The next morning showed the promise of a beautiful day. A few cirrus languished in a clear blue sky and the occasional pant of wind carried aromas of wild thyme blended with pine and mown grass. As far as the eye could see, golden masses of gorse basking in the sun patiently awaited breakfast in the shape of a wayward golf ball.

One of the first things Sandy noticed was that the smart ball did not have the same sound coming off the club as a regular ball. Further observations revealed that when the ball had been in play for just a short time, distance substantially increased by about 5 - 10% per stroke. Disaster struck at NEWLANDS, the name given to the third hole, when Sandy drove his first smart ball nearly 300 yards and out of bounds into gorse, and as far as he was concerned, into oblivion. His transponder failed to acknowledge that the ball had ever existed although it happily flashed when tested in the presence of the other pair.

After he teed off for the next hole, a wee black Labrador cross terrier scurried through the gorse and heather to retrieve the lost ball. It ran back to his master, a stout little gentleman with pure white close-cropped hair. The dog dropped the ball at his feet. The old man picked up the ball and patted the dog on the head, urging it to search the rough again. He examined the ball for hacks and cuts before placing it with others in a plastic bag bearing the logo, Thomas Hays & Co. Soon this collection of 'finders keepers' would be converted into bookies’ earnings.

A week before the start of the preliminary rounds for the Open, Sandy was on the approach to the 8th green when his ball overshot by about fifty yards. This had not gone unnoticed by a visiting golfer who was strolling along the far edge of an adjacent fairway. Sandy used his transponder to check out the transmitter in the cup. No radio signal could be detected. He went over to the cup and gazed around to see if anyone was watching then knelt down.

This action aroused the curiosity of the visitor. He watched Sandy reach down into the cup to retrieve a small object. A moment or two later, the object was carefully replaced in the bottom of the cup. Unknown to the observer, the youth had just changed the battery in the transmitter and tested it.

Sandy arose and scanned the links. A golfer near the next fairway appeared to be gently swishing rough grass and heather from side to side in search of a lost ball; an annoying pastime, referred to by golfers, as 'ball hawking'. Home located his smart ball and chipped it into the cup. The visitor pursed his lips and let out a soft whistle. Trudging away, the man wondered whom he could talk to about rearranging a couple of the randomly picked names that had been paired for the prelim playoffs.

Rab Chambers had also witnessed this unusual behaviour from a hummock about half a mile out in the moor. Chambers had been carrying a brace of pheasants when Home's sudden appearance prompted him to drop to the ground. Although more than half the population of Lanark, including the local constabulary knew of Chambers' poaching activities, it always paid to be prudent - hence the low profile. His army surplus jacket blended in perfectly with the broken browns and greens of heather and gorse. Moleskin trousers kept his legs snug and warm as he lay on the cool damp ground. Betty, Rab's wife, was the only person in the town that had the skill to fashion mole skins in this manner. It was dying craft___ particularly for moles.

Small and lean, Rab was fairly strong and could heft a full-grown gralloched deer for a fair distance, sometimes just out of bird shot range of an irate gamekeeper. Chambers was blessed with a healthy appetite and consumed any kind of food that had ever been placed in front of him but he never gained weight. Some acquaintances believed that he had a tapeworm. Always on the lookout for a supplement to his illegal income, Rab decided the cup on that green needed investigation when Alec Home had left the scene.


On the first morning of the prelim playoffs, Alec Home sauntered onto the 1st tee with Rab Chambers, his caddie, trailing a pace behind. Walter Graham stood chatting to his own caddie, Gus Chambers. Both men nodded to the newcomers as they waited by a polished granite slab about two feet long, ten inches high and six inches thick. It sported the ornate carving, LOCH.

Gus acknowledged his twin brother by jerking his head slightly, indicating that he wanted to talk him. They moved a step or so away, communicating by out-of-the-side of the mouth whispers as the golfers conferred about play. Graham removed a slim bowled briar pipe from his mouth and was slightly annoyed to find that a drop of rain had extinguished it. Rekindling it, he inverted the bowl to prevent rain from entering. A plume of smoke whisked into the cool morning air. The Canadian was neatly dressed in off-white trousers with an open-necked cream shirt under a dark-green golf sweater. His spiked shoes, also white, were slightly scuffed. Home wore a Fair Isle cardigan over a white sports shirt. His beige trousers were of cavalry twill and the corner of a handkerchief protruded from the right pocket.

The only thing that the Chambers brothers appeared to have in common, was to have been born on the same day. Gus Chambers was a squat individual with a craggy face. He wore an old jacket of brown corduroy with black doeskin trousers, the legs of which were untidily tucked into a pair of black Wellington boots. The black waistcoat straining over his paunch carried a fob which upon a second glance, appeared to be a thin bicycle chain. He wore a collar and tie to honour this auspicious occasion but had neglected to don an accompanying shirt. His flat peaked bonnet (his checkit scone), sat squarely on a crop of silver thatch which sheltered the dog-end of a Senior Service cigarette behind his right ear.

A tug on the bicycle chain brought immediate reference to a chromium-plated Ingersoll watch about the size of a bannock. Gus gestured vaguely across the rolling moorland turf and heather which was dotted with tiny violets and wild thyme, towards a yellow flag which rippled madly on a distant pin.

"Wad you twa gentlemen like me tae toss tae see wha gangs first?" he ventured.

Sandy shrugged indifferently, then agreed.

Gus withdrew a fifty pence coin from his pocket and flipped it. "Call it!" he announced and spun it into the air.

"Heads!" called the Canadian.

The coin glittered briefly and fell at its owner's foot. Her Majesty's profile wept in the short dewy turf.

"Heids, it is!" confirmed Gus, stooping to retrieve the coin.

"Right!" replied Graham, knocking out his pipe on the stone. "Give me my driver please, Gus." His caddie hauled out the #1 wood, removed a Graham tartan sock from the highly polished head, and handed the club to him. The Canadian stepped over to Sandy and whispered, "One more thing; d'you want to bet on the outcome of this game?"

"How much?" Sandy asked sullenly.

"Oh not money," assured Graham. "If both of us finish this round under par then we both may be eligible for the qualifying tournament for the Open. Let's make the bet that only the winner of this particular game goes on, the other resigns - regardless of the score."

"Why would you want to do that?"

"Because I don't think professional golf needs your kind!" retorted Graham.

Home's face went white; flushed, then paled again. "Is that right? Okay then, Mister High and Bloody Mighty! "You're on! Do your worst!"

"Oh - I will, Mister Home. I will!"

During this confrontation, the two brothers communicated briefly on the welfare of their respective families. Gus also inquired about the availability of salmon.

"Ah think Ah've twa or three left in ma freezer," responded Rab. "Come tae think o' it, Ah hiv'nae had a bit fur a while masel'. Maybe Ah'll ask Betty tae serve me some poached for supper the morra."

"Dae ye hiv ony ither kind?" asked his brother with a sly grin.

Observing the angry exchange between the golfers, they changed the subject to betting. Rab pointed out that the standard one pound per hole seemed to be kind of trivial for a game that had all the makings of a real grudge match. His brother agreed but became hesitant when Rab suggested upping the ante to five pounds a hole. After some consideration, Gus agreed, believing he had the edge since his man was a pro.

Graham took up a stance facing the clubhouse to address the ball. He squinted off to the west where misted hills lay beyond the pin. On the right side of the narrow fairway, he could see a pink, crushed whinstone path running parallel to it and further to the right of that, Graham could just catch a glimpse of Lanark Loch. A depression formed the bulk of the three hundred and sixty-yard fairway with a bunker off to the far left. Also on the left, about halfway up the slope to the green, another two sand traps lay in wait. A few practice swings warmed him up then he sent the ball well over two hundred yards to land on the left edge of the fairway. He handed his club to his caddie who flourished a damp towel to wipe the head before replacing it in the bag.

As his opponent teed his ball, Graham's sharp eyes could not help but notice the unusual logo on the smart ball. "Hold on a minute!" he called, interrupting Home's concentration. "What's the make of that ball you're going to play?"

"It's - eh," hesitated Sandy, his mind going like the hammers, trying to think of a valid explanation. The ball's number, XT-BS2, had gazed up at him to give him an idea.

Home lifted his ball from the tee and showed it to the Canadian. He briefly told Graham about Charlie Rodgers' venture in synthetic materials. Charlie had approached a buddy who worked for one of the golf ball manufacturers with this new material, XT-BS2. He had coaxed him into covering a few balls for test purposes. Although his friend balked at placing the company logo on the ball, he did agree to Charlie's tongue-in-cheek inspiration, Sandbagger. The material was working out very well, Sandy had continued and looked like it would soon on the market under a bona fide name.

The Canadian appeared to have accepted this yarn. Relieved, Home replaced his ball on the tee. He glanced briefly at the brightly painted sheet metal sign which stated: 360 yds., PAR 4. He hoped to score a par four since it would take at least a couple of good hits to build up enough potential energy to get the smart ball into action. His ball soared into the hodden-grey sky where a gust of wind fielded it to a point about eighty yards behind his opponent's.

Rab cleaned the club and hurried off in pursuit of the three men as they strolled down to the centre of the fairway. Home's next shot took him past the marker denoting the 1st hole's position to place him between the two sand traps. His third shot landed on the green about three feet from the pin. Graham's Titleist lay seven feet from the pin. Home had reached the green in three and ordered his caddy to extract the pin. Although he didn't putt hard enough to reach the cup, the ball had sufficient kinetic energy to achieve par. The Canadian made his birdie.

The second hole, DODGER, was a 467 yard, par four dogleg with a ball-eating ditch called The Burn slinking across the fairway about two hundred yards from the tee. Graham, with his extra height to maximise his swing, plus his experience, easily overcame this hazard and landed his ball just beyond the Burn in the centre of the fairway. Before his invention, Home had always placed his ball on the nearside of The Burn but now with the extra thrust, it went well past the hock of the dogleg and stopped dead centre for the approach.

Graham's second stroke had all the makings of a perfect shot onto the green when the capricious wind seized it and dropped it into one of the green side bunkers. Sandy was worried that the radio signal coming from the adjacent 15th hole would influence his ball but the wind fought that and allowed it to land on the green. Graham popped his ball onto the green and parred it. Sandy one-putted for birdie.

The next hole was parred by both players. Home gained a stroke on the 4th when his opponent bogied the hole. Graham felt that 5th hole should have been called King of the Castle instead of STANMORE, for 318 yards away, the pin was a sentinel guarding a reasonably flat green on top of a hill. From the tee, it resembled a truncated verdant cone with a twenty-yard step in front. The only other reasonably level surfaces on the slopes were three deep-set sand traps. The narrow fairway was completely guarded on the left side by a dense wood of Scotch pine. On the second stroke, one had to play to the right of the pin in the hope that the prevailing wind would remain steady enough to place the ball on the green.

Sandy, knowing that the ball was fully powered, teed off with everything he had. About forty yards from the green, the wind dropped off completely. The ball's momentum carried to the crest of the hill where it rolled back down into a bunker. His opponent was on the green in two. From the lip of the hill, Graham and the two caddies smoked and chatted while they watched Home prepare for his shot. A mighty swipe made his sand wedge go deep and gouged an enormous spray of sand in the air. The ball soared almost vertically from the heart of the cloud. Reaching a height of about five feet above the green, it switched abruptly into horizontal flight in line for the hole. The ball clanged against the pin, bounced back five or six feet then almost demurely, rolled into the cup for an eagle.

"Christ!" swore Gus, his cigarette dangling on a dropped lip.

"Amen!" concurred Graham.

Rab rubbed his palms together and gloated.

"All right!" cheered an exuberant Sandy on his pleasant discovery after his frantic scramble to the green.

Graham, visibly shaken, had lost much of his concentration which caused him to miss his birdie and go down for par.

The links were beginning to fill up as they progressed. Capped heads and some bright umbrellas marked the traffic of competitors who could be seen bobbing in and out of sight on their way past clumps of gorse, or between trees, and navigating shallow depressions in the undulating moorland. Occasionally a wayward ball would startle a rabbit from the rough. Sparse groups of spectators would latch onto a pair of golfers only to dribble away after a couple of holes when interest waned, perhaps to shelter in thickets of pine, or a nearby bothy from intermittent showers.

TINTO, the eighth hole, was a 530 yards, par five, with a near straight rolling fairway with six bunkers. Sandy teed off sending his smart ball almost three hundred yards. Graham's Titleist landed about 30 yards behind on the left side of the fairway. Home knew that if his ball landed on the green with this next shot, he was pretty certain of a double eagle.

Humming a few bars of Sous L'Aigle Double, Sandy addressed the ball. As it soared towards the green, an exceptionally strong gust of wind swept across the fairway from the left. Before Sandy had the presence of mind to operate his transponder, the smart ball veered onto a new course, homing in on the nearby 12th hole. It went into the cup, much to the chagrin of two other competitors who were playing the hole. Faint sounding hoots and slow hand claps drifted back up the fairway from a small group of spectators.

Graham just shook his head and asked Gus for his brassie. He took a couple of practice swings, stopped and looked up as he remembered something. With a smile he quoted Coleridge:

"Ah! well a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung."

and delivered his ball a few yards short of the proper green. Sandy just glared at him and stomped off to the 12th green with Rab Chambers in tow.

Home, highly embarrassed, had to put up with quite a few disparaging comments from the two players waiting to putt while he played from the fringe of their green. Sandy figured that he could still manage an eagle since the smart ball would almost certainly go straight to the cup. He was quite wrong however, on two counts: first, the accumulated energy in his ball had been temporarily drained, owing to the two previous long distance consecutive hits and second, in his agitated state, he had forgotten to switch on the homing devices again. Still, he managed to reach the verge of the green.

With his third shot, Graham placed his ball less than six feet from the pin. Home reactivated the homing devices. The pin was 20 yards away. The smart ball travelled fifteen yards before stopping. Sandy played again for par which he didn't get, then putted for bogie. He got the bogie. The Canadian got his birdie and Gus Chambers got one of his five pound notes back.

A wedge of blue sky scudded towards them as they left TINTO and for a brief moment, the men were treated to a panorama of saddle back hills peaked by cairns. In the foreground, a pair of swans glided on the shaded serenity of Lanark Loch. A skylark could be seen fluttering to ever higher levels as it twittered in the cool summer air.

The smart ball's final success, the coveted hole-in-one, came about on the way back in at the tenth hole, TINTOCK TAP. The 27-yard diameter green was guarded by three sand traps at the front with a steep embankment at the rear. Behind the green, protective screens of the ever-present Scotch pines partially surrounded the green like squads of Fuller brush salesmen. This was a 152 yards, par three hole. Another hazard lay to the left____lengthy sprawling thickets of gorse. Sandy's opponent parred the hole. The score at this point showed Home 2 up and Gus Chambers 30 down (pounds sterling).

The Canadian had caught a glimpse of the palmed monetary exchange between the caddies. As they strolled over to the 11th tee, Graham whispered something to his caddie. Just before Sandy teed off, Gus coaxed his brother into doubling up the ante.

Darkening clouds were rapidly forming and not just in the sky either. It was about to rain on somebody's parade. After two strokes over a 397 yard dogleg, with The Burn obliquely dissecting the fairway, the smart ball had landed on the left edge of the 11th green. It required a thirty-five to forty-foot putt for birdie. The ball travelled about twenty feet, broke to the left, carried on for maybe five feet and then rolled back about two feet towards Sandy. The next putt took it to within 30 inches of the cup. The educated ball was losing its smarts because it missed again then went down for a double bogie. Graham parred the hole.

VALLEY, the 12th green, was a repeat performance of the previous hole. Again the smart ball was delivered to left side of the green after two well-distanced strokes. Sandy's putt was perfect as the ball rolled directly in line for the cup. About two feet from the hole it seemed to develop a backspin and reversed its course almost back to the putter. This time, the end result was another double bogie.

"It looks like its daein' the Dashin' White Serjeant!" jeered Gus, pleased now that his luck was turning.

The Canadian parred again.

When Sandy's ball occupied a similar position in relation to the 13th pin, he began to realise that only the urgent rediscovery of the art of putting could stem the present flow of impending disaster. He gave the ball a strong putt which delivered it right to the cup, around the rim and ran off to the right for a few inches. It broke left to cross its original path before stopping.

"Jings!" exclaimed Rab. "Noo it's daein' an eightsome reel!"

"It looks like your cup runneth over," smiled the Canadian.

Sandy glared at him as he angrily strode over to his ball. Graham could not resist rubbing another dash of salt in the wound.

"That's biblical talk for play it again, Psalm!"

Another bogie! Mishaps became flotsam in a sea of woe. His opponent parred the hole to his caddie's delight.

To the uninitiate, manicured greens look like pristine ellipses or circles of cropped turf with the consistency of billiard table felt. Some greens appear to be flat and others may slope to or away from the cup, while many include all of these characteristics in combination with perceptible hints of hills and valleys. When a golfer, particularly a golfer in the early stages of trauma, crouches behind the ball to view the lay of the green, calamity may lurk behind a single blade of grass.

Greens tend to emulate fingerprints left by some giant. Whorls, the merest fraction of an inch high, may deflect and carry the greatest intention away from the cup. A small bump can jar the ball back on course or into an adjacent groove of fast grass which may direct it to yet another unplanned destination. Moving around the green for lateral observations of potential hazards severely tests the nerves.

The final sequel of this strange ritual begins with a brief, almost reverential silence followed by a distinct series of acoustic expressions: the sharp click of the ball as it leaves the putter; the sudden expulsion of breath, quickly followed by loud cries of relief or despair (depending on the result). Bird watchers have observed remarkable similarities in the wild.

From the 11th hole to the 17th, the smart ball had persistently landed near or in the second cut of each green, sometimes to the left or right of the cup and sometimes front or back, but its position always appeared to be influenced by the prevailing west wind. The four men stood on the 18th tee. Walter Graham gestured to the granite plinth bearing the legend, HOME.

"That could be your gravestone, fella!"

Sandy shrugged and gazed towards the 18th pin while he waited for a couple of players to tee off for the 1st cup. Both fairways intersect in front of the 1st tee. When the way was clear, he took some practice swings then sent the smart ball on its 216 yards, par three flight. And as on every previous occasion since the 11th hole, it stopped short in the second cut around the green. Graham's ball landed about 3 feet from the pin. He won the last hole and game with a birdie which brought his score to seven under. Sandy, on the other hand, compounded his loss with another bogie and total score of twenty above. Gus Chambers gleefully accepted another tenner from his brother and replaced the pin. He relieved Graham of his putter.

"That was a beautiful finish, Sur!" remarked Gus, polishing the club with much enthusiasm. "Ye've broken the course record by yin. My congratulations! Minus 7 oan a par 70 course! Ah'll jist take yer golf bag ower tae yer car."

"Make sure my clubs are clean before you hand them in at the pro shop!" Sandy growled at Rab Chambers.

When Rab was out of earshot, Graham spoke to the youth. "Well, I hope you've learned a lesson today."

Sandy, his thoughts interrupted from the puzzle which began on the 11th green, stared at his opponent without comprehension. "Huh?"

"Cheaters seldom prosper." Graham stated.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, laddie, that you're a cheat. A pretty smart cheat, but nevertheless, still a cheat."

There was no way Graham could possibly know what he had been up to, contemplated Sandy. He suspects something with some of the weird shots that happened, Home surmised, but - "Prove it!"

Graham gazed back to the 18th tee. There was nobody there although he could see two players on the 17th approach. He stepped back over to the pin and peered about the immediate vicinity, No one displayed any interest. The Canadian crouched down suddenly, his fingers swiftly probing around the base of the cup and quickly withdrew the small round transmitting device.

"What about this, then ?"

Sandy's mouth fell open, his lower jaw drooping nearly to his shirt collar. "How did - I mean - ?" he stammered.

"Never mind! The point is, that I do know." He held out his hand towards Sandy, open palm upwards. A few beads of drizzle glinted on the dulled metal button. As Home reached out to take it from him, Graham quickly clenched his fingers around the bug. His fist quivered slightly under the youth's nose. "I know you don't like to take advice but here's a piece anyway: always check on what the competition's doing!" He smiled suddenly and placed the bug in his own shirt pocket.

"This one's mine." Graham made a languid gesture back across the links as he continued. "All the transmitters at the cups from the 11th green to here are mine. All the bugs on green perimeters are yours! See ya on TV! Chou, buddy!"

Graham strode from the green leaving Home quite dumbfounded.

A voice hallooed him from the red whinstone path. It was the club secretary. "Hey, stupid! Gerraff the damned green! Ye're haudin' up play!"

Gus Chambers waited by the trunk of Graham's car thumbing banknotes. He held out a small wad of money with the Canadian's approach.

"What's this?" enquired Graham.

"If ye hadn't have telt me tae double up at the 11th tee, Ah wid've barely broken even. As it is, Ah'm up a bundle, so here's yer share."

"Keep it!" grinned his benefactor, withdrawing a slim wallet from his back pocket. "Is the going rate for caddies still twenty-five pounds?"

"Aye," admitted Gus. " - but...."

"Here's fifty - buy yourself a bottle of the best single malt and have a few on me." Graham laughed. He opened his trunk allowing the caddie to place his golf bag inside. Slamming the trunk lid shut, he shook Chambers' hand. "Thanks for everything, Gus. I could have been in trouble a couple of times if it wasn't for your knowledge of the course."

Chambers acknowledged by knuckling the peak of his cap then left by a path which headed towards the loch. It began to rain. Graham climbed into the little rented Honda and removed his pipe from his pocket. As he began to clean hardened burnt residue from the slim bowl with his penknife, Graham reflected on the past few days.

Realising what Home was up to, after that day on the 8th green, the Canadian had moved the last eight transmitting devices. He still couldn't understand why anyone would go to all that trouble and expense when there were just too many variables. Home must have found it quite difficult to adjust to this new type of game: and the sad thing was, that the youth really excelled in his driving, and on the approaches. He just needed some practice supplemented with a little coaching on the art of putting.

Graham smiled, recalling some of the expressions on his opponent's face when he putted his ball, which adamantly tried to return its original landing position on the verge of each green. He had, of course, lied to Sandy Home about his own personal homing devices: they didn't exist. If Home thought that other golfers may have had perfected an educated ball, perhaps the youth might be disillusioned enough to relinquish that train of thought. But tomorrow, before beginning his second round, Graham would make sure that Home had kept his side of the bargain and resigned from the prelim.

The Canadian stoked up his pipe with a fine Dutch tobacco, drawing strongly as he lit it. He rolled down his window slightly to let great puffs of smoke escape. The rain began pelting down and reminded him of the look-a-like homing device in his shirt pocket. He removed it and pried the nickel-sized magnet free with his knife. The remaining piece was put back where it belonged: as a rain cover for the bowl of his pipe!

Sandbagger II is on its way,
a new improved ball:
So purchase one this very day
and win from Spring till Fall.
Grant a golfer this Christmas wish
'Cause soon it'll have its place:
Remote control by satellite dish
calling, FORE! from Outer Space!

Francis Kerr Young
October 1994

Return to Poems from Francis Kerr Young


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