It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to be thinking about sports these days, and in particular, sports that were invented by the enthusiastic ancient Scots clans when they weren’t busy pillaging.
Last week it was curling, and this week it’s that other most popular pastime created by those kilt-wearing, bagpipe-blowing, haggis-eating highlanders – caber tossing!
Just kidding about that sport involving throwing telephone poles, of course, I’m referring to one of the Scots’ more popular, endlessly frustrating creations – “Whack-Damn” – known formally as golf.
I was starting to get a bit weary of watching curling on the old boob-tube so I tuned into the legendary Masters golf tournament which features the world’s best ball whackers walking and whacking around the perfectly verdant, beautifully flower-laden links at Augusta, Georgia. And that’s when one popular golfer made things interesting with a weird and wonderful coincidence that elevated the often pedantic golf viewing experience significantly. Because everyone enjoys a really good coincidence.
Rory McIlroy, the 31 year old champion Irish golfer teed one up on the seventh hole and cranked an errant missile way down to toward the green and into the crowd of onlookers off to the right of his target. Whereupon it nailed a fellow in the leg.
Now, hitting spectators is not exceedingly rare in professional golf, and the golfer usually goes over to the unfortunate bystander, pushes the paramedics out of the way and apologizes by giving his victim a signed golf glove or golf ball. In Rory’s case at Augusta, the unfortunate bystander he hit happened to be his very own father! What are the odds?
Gerry McIlroy, who is often at his son’s tournaments was not seriously damaged and instead of a signed glove Rory gave his dad a hug and they had a right old chuckle about the whole thing. “He was fine,” Rory said to reporters, “He might need to put some ice on it – maybe I’ll autograph a bag of frozen peas for him.”
Thing is, Rory is no stranger to golf course shenanigans. At a World Match Play Championship he smacked a shot out of the rough, narrowly missing a spectator this time. The spectator, however, had to leap out of the way to avoid getting pegged, and he vigorously did so – straight into a cactus bush. And according to USA Today, a few years ago McIlroy hit out of a bunker filled with 900 lbs of coleslaw. Um, pardon me? Yep, it’s true. It was part of a scientific experiment filmed by ESPN, although no one is quite sure why they had Rory up to his ankle in coleslaw instead of, say, scalloped potatoes, or maybe Corn Flakes. For the record, he open-bladed a lovely shot right near the hole. (There’s no word on golf courses replacing their sand traps with coleslaw bunkers any time soon, however.)
As for personal golf course jimcrackery I for one, have never blasted out of coleslaw, and I’ve never hit a spectator for the obvious reason that there isn’t any, thank goodness, but I’ve certainly ricocheted golf balls off of any number of inanimate objects including trees, golf carts, garbage containers, golf course signage, cars in the parking lot etc. And once, I thoroughly amused the rest of our foursome consisting of my Better Half, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law by chunking a shot on a soggy fairway only to have a divot the size of dead badger fly straight up and land on my head. True story. At least I was wearing a hat at the time.
So it’s a Scottish sports binge lately. Maybe I’ll immerse myself in water polo next. Or better yet: shinty. Whatever the heck that is.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea at email@example.com.