|The following feature story on golf was excerpted from the writings of Will Rogers by Joseph H. Carter, former director of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums of Oklahoma and a biographer. Carter, a former wire service correspondent and newspaper reporter, is author of the 1991 Avon book, Never Met A Man I Didn't Like: The Life and Writings of Will Rogers. There is no restriction on publication.|
Rogers Reflects On Golf;
Income Tax Nets More Liars
By Will Rogers
Income tax has made liars out of more people than golf has.
Golf is the only game in the world that takes longer to explain than play.
You play it in two hours and it takes another 22 alibiing for what you didn't do.
My political education has been sadly neglected as I have never walked over many green pastures.
Horses are too cheap for a man to spend half his life walking over the country look for holes in the ground.
Lack of golf will not handicap me in England. I do talk a corking game of golf.
I have a read a lot about golf in the papers, but as old as I am, I never had seen anybody play it.
I lived on Long Island, right next to the Wheatley Hills Golf Course. I often looked over there and have seen people walking around following a boy carrying a gunny sack full of bats.
They were always changing.
They never seemed able to make up their minds just which bat to use constantly. I naturally never thought they were playing. I thought they were just walking around practicing.
I have a little polo field where I work my horses and practice hitting the ball. No one would ever be foolish enough to think I was playing a game of polo.
The other day they had this tournament. I says to myself here's where I am going to see a game of golf.
I have seen most of the World Series of the last few years and the International Polo Games. Two weeks ago I saw Alabama reverse the decision of the Civil War on Washington. Seen the Army and Navy games so close I could smell the Goat. Can even remember back when I was a boy, when Jack Dempsey fought to retain the Championship. Saw a tennis championship and the Democratic Convention but I never seen a golf game.
These fellows was doing just what I had seen those others do out on Long Island, just walking around monkeying.
Here, I had seen golf all the time and didn't know it.
It is the only game in the world where practicing it and playing it is the same thing.
Seeing a man walking around a golf course hitting a ball is like somebody handling a ukelele. You can't tell whether they are playing it or just monkeying around.
It's the only game outside of solitare where you play alone.
What you do with your ball hasn't got anything to do with what the other fellow does with his. I can play in the morning and you a month from now. There is a pardner, or accomplice, who plays along with you. You are not sent out for company but to annoy each other.
Then when you get through the game the strain is not over. You have to wait til the last guy comes in at sundown to find out what happened to you.
It's solitare, only much quieter.
I heard it called an old man's game. All of them were either great big husky birds or little husky birds. Everyone of them looked big and strong enough to work at something.
I am not going to make the mistake of the usual fool (just because I don't play the game) and tell there is nothing to it. There is skill in anything, if you practice it long enough. Spitting at a crack don't get much recognition among the Arts, but you just try to hit one some time and you will never laugh at another spitter.
The main thing that struck me about the game was the amount of skill they had developed in getting near the hole and how little they displayed in getting into it.
They could knock a ball clear across a canyon to a hole 225 yard away and light in one shot right up within a few feet of the hole, and then shoot the rest of the evening trying to get it in there. It must be hard. When anything ain't being done it's hard.
But any man that goes anywhere and pays his money to see something, he is just liable to be the one to make a suggestion that will improve on the game. It was a one-legged guy that invented the rule that "over the fence is a home run without running."
So I am just liable to be the one to make a helpful suggestion on this golf business: what this country needs is better putters.
When I take up the game I am just going to work on my putting. Let somebody else do the walking around. Let them bat 'em up on the old green and I will be the man that will do the putting. But I will have to get me some knee breeches.
These fellow don't get anything in these tournaments unless they win it. The prizes generally run to about the first ten. Sometimes there is sixty or eighty that start, so you can see somebody has got to have some other visible means of support other than his "putter." If they can't find that Gopher Hole in less knocks than the other sixty, it's just too bad.
When there is $3,500 bucks strung along on the green and you have to project a Gutapercha missile into the empty end of a sardine can twenty feet away to get your clutches onto any part of that dough, I want to tell you neighbors the humor of the game immediately vanishes into cold perspiration. I would be nervous carrying a ball in a sack to deposit somewhere.
Put $3,500 smackers down and tell us we had one putt to win it. I think I would be so nervous I would pick up the caddy and swing him at it.
These fellows actually have wives and they are following around. They all look young. I guess there never was an old woman golfer's wife. Either the strain or starvation get 'em along before middle life. One tough season would wear out about three wives on a fellow.Think of the prospects of a new dress hanging on every approach. If he goes into the bunker she goes back to last year's. Just think of having to see your husband's every mistake. Other wives know of them, but they don't see 'em happen. Not only you seeing what a fool he had made of himself by missing a ten-inch putt, but it was right before everybody.
These golfers are a cheerful lot, win or lose, wives and all. They laugh it off, take the husband home, dress him up and send him back for another beating on the morrow.
About all there is to prominent men nowadays is their golf. It has always been a mystery to me how our old time men every got even as good as they were without golf. Just imagine if Lincoln had had golf to add to his other accomplishments. There is a boy you have been proud of.