I just love the British Open Championship, especially the ones played back in the days when there were more sheep on the course than golfers, and it was difficult to tell the two apart. The Claret Jug, for which they first played in 1873, was commissioned by the Royal & Ancient from Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh for the grand sum of Ã‚Â£30. That doesn’t sound like much now, but bear in mind that back then a bespoke pair of Purdeys (which, were I to buy today, would subsequently be used by She Who Must Be Obeyed to fill my rapidly fleeing buttocks full of No. 8 birdshot) could be stolen for a mere Ã‚Â£15. A handmade driving club from clubmaker Laurie Auchterlonie, which retailed for under a fiver in the late 19th century, fetches an unholy fortune at auction today.
My dad had a longnosed playclub, which sat in the corner of our garage, quietly confident in its rarity, value and place in golf history, until one day a 9-year-old American Indian decided that with a little alteration it would make a splendid sharp-nosed spear to throw at the snot-nosed little cowpoke down the street. The bastard was asking for it after unkindly giving the little brave the nickname “Tiny Loincloth.” But as happens when an ancient treasure is disturbed, a curse fell. The relic was bad medicine, and later that Indian summer evening Tiny Loincloth’s butt cheeks were as red as the dusky sky. His dad, Chief Slightly Larger Loincloth, was heap big put out.
I’ve often wondered where that club might have ended up if the head hadn’t been cut off and it hadn’t lodged itself between the front spokes of that palefaced little arsehole’s getaway horse, hurling him out of his saddle, nose-first into my Auntie Brenda’s begonias. It might have made its way into a private collection, or even the R&A museum in St. Andrews. If you’re ever lucky enough to wangle your way into the R&A clubhouse, you’ll see beautiful trophies with silly names evoking the days when a man wasn’t a man unless he had a few switch marks on his bum from a damned good public-school thrashing earlier that morning, even if he hadn’t been to school for 40 years.
British golf history is liberally sprinkled with absurdly named trophies like the Antlers, the Kent Cob and the Tooting Bec Cup, which is awarded to the Brit player in the Open Championship with the lowest single round, and if that guy’s not available, to the best tooter.
Upon further investigation I found out that any thing the limeys could do, Americans could do bigger, better and with a middle initial. If you think the silliest name for an American tournament trophy is the Wananaker (PGA), you’re not even close. The U.S. Amateur winner’s trophy is called the Theodore A. Havemeyer, for the first president of the USGA, and the Women’s Open champion receives the Harton S. Semple. One of my favorites is the Crump Cup, name in honor of George A. Crump, who croaked after designing the first 12 holes at Pine Valley. Now that’s a tough course. But the clear winner of the silly-name stakes is the victor at the Women’s Mid-Am, who takes home the Mildred Gardiner Prunaret.
Now, I don’t know what old Mildred’s Prunaret looks like these days, but I guarantee you if I’d got my hands on it when I was 9, I could probably have hammered it into one hell of a bulletproof breastplate.