Rehabilitating Old Tom Morris

Mission creep. I believe that’s what it’s called.

Say an air raid is scheduled for the purpose of taking out a hydroelectric plant, but en route the team notices a strategic bridge, so the pilot makes a diversion to target the bridge as well.

Well, on this forum mission creep would be anything that does not deal directly with the horrific trauma that bad golf can cause, and the comedic results of that trauma. We call those results tantrums, and I’ve recently learned that in 2012 a team of Scottish psychiatrists aborted a study that had aimed to figure out just why golf is so maddening to the human mind. Rumor has it that shortly before the end of the study one of the researchers was seen in his lab snapping a driver over his knee.

Mission creep notwithstanding, for months I’ve felt a growing need to unburden myself of the disgust that these Old Tom Morris GolfNow commercials have caused to well up in my soul. If you ever watch Golf Channel, you doubtless know the ads I am referring to:

– Old Tom Morris, depicted as the 19th Century village boob, attempts to pay for his meal at a modern-day grillroom with a rooster.

– Old Tom bumbles his way through an attempt to use a range ball dispenser, then watches helplessly as the balls spill onto the cart path.

– Old Tom attempts to book a tee time with a carrier pigeon.

Invariably, these ads end with Old Tom exhorting us to “Go Play,” in a strong Scottish brogue.

The GolfNow folks must think they’re pretty cute. I think the writers should pull their heads out of their asses.

Old Tom Morris with his son Young Tom

Old Tom Morris with his son Young Tom (courtesy USGA)

Far from a dunce, Old Tom Morris was a golfing trailblazer and one of its most important ever innovators. In 1860 he played the first shot in the history of The Open Championship. He finished second that inaugural year, but went on to win the title four times.

Those achievements, though, pale in comparison to the other ways Old Tom influenced golf. Among the many courses he designed is Muirfield, which is viewed by many as Scotland’s greatest links. In addition, Morris standardized course design at 18 holes.

As a greenskeeper, Morris was the first to introduce the concept of topdressing greens. While working as the custodian of the St. Andrews links for four decades, Morris became the first man to use yardage markers. He was also the first to use hand mowers on greens.

I understand that the GolfNow people are just trying to being cute – no harm intended. I, by no means, am a stranger to satire.

But here’s the thing. Unless a viewer has a strong interest in golf history, he or she probably knows nothing, or very little, about Old Tom Morris. Now, thanks to a website that’s packaging golf tee times, the viewer is stuck with the image of a clueless old man lugging chickens around.

And here’s the irony that really irks me. Invariably the price of a GolfNow tee time includes a cart. I’m quite sure that Old Tom, custodian of the links of St. Andrews, forefather of the game, would want to play golf as it has always been played, on foot. Would GolfNow give him a walking rate? If not, I’m sure even the fictitious Old Tom depicted in the commercials would soon be looking to buy his tee times elsewhere.


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