The story below is from Art Mattson, a new student this term. He has written quite a lot during his life, but hasn’t tackled the more creative kind of writing I teach in my classes. For example, I encourage students to enhance their stories with dialogue, which is an effective tool for developing plot and realizing characters. Dialogue makes a story so much more engaging and real than merely summarizing what happened. Art uses this tool effectively in his first story for our class.
One more point: I encourage new students to begin their life story by writing about something that’s fun to recall, or something they feel excited or passionate about. It’s so tedious to begin with the story of your birth, and you’ll soon feel so overwhelmed by the expanse of time you have to write about, you’ll give up before you ever get started. Art took my advice and wrote about something he loves: golf. When he came to class to read his story, he wore a golf shirt and the tartan golf cap he bought the day he took St. Andrews Golf Course by storm. Here’s his fun story:
I’d Like to Play the Old Course
by Art Mattson
“I’d like to play the Old Course,” I said.
The man was sitting at a large desk in the side lobby of the Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews, Scotland. He opened a side drawer, pulled out a notebook, flipped through it until he found the page he wanted, fingered down to an open space, and asked, “Can you play at four o’clock?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Would you mind playing with three Japanese gents?” he asked.
“Not at all,” I replied. “I have Japanese in-laws and like them very much.”
He took my name and wrote it in the book. “Be here at 3:30, and we’ll get you set up,” he said. “What room are you in?”
“I just got here, and haven’t got a room yet,” I said.
“Oh!” he said with dismay, and began to erase my name from the book. Then he stopped, and said, “What the heck, it’ll be okay.”
Evidently, he was making tee times reserved for guests staying in the hotel and had given me one by mistake.
It turned out that getting on St. Andrews Old Course is very difficult. Every golfer who visits Scotland wants to play there. It’s the Holy Grail, the birthplace of golf. Many great tournaments have been played there, including the British Open, whose champions include Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, John Daly, and Tiger Woods.
I returned to the car with my wife, Angie, who had been shopping in the adjoining Golf Pro Shop/Gift Shop. It was 1:30. We drove into the town of St. Andrews and found a room in the Russell Hotel. It was one block from the first tee of the Old Course.
The hotel lobby where I had made my tee time was about a thousand yards from the first tee, so I figured I’d just check in with the starter at the first tee. He was in a kiosk with his own list of players. I gave him my name, thinking the man from the hotel lobby had forwarded it to him. He checked his list, and said forbiddingly, “You’re not on my list. You’re not playing today.”
I said, “I’m to be playing with three Japanese men.”
He checked his list again, and said, “There aren’t any Japanese men.”
I accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be playing. Stupid me, I never thought of trudging 1,000 yards back to the Old Course Hotel lobby. Instead, I engaged in conversation with a young Italian man who was standing by, waiting for an opening.” How long have you been waiting?” I asked.
“Since seven this morning,” he replied. He went on to explain that each day players sign up to play the next day. At five o’clock, a lottery is held. The names drawn are assigned tee times for the next day. If your name is not drawn, you can play another course or, like him, stand by for an opening if there is a no show.
Just then, I heard a man behind me inquire, “Mr. Mattson?”
I turned and answered, “Yes.”
“You were supposed to come to the hotel,” he said. “Can you play at 4:10 instead of four o’clock?”
“Sure,” I said. “Are the Japanese men here?”
“They’re not coming,” he said.
“Can my Italian friend play along with me?” I asked.
“No, there are others who have been waiting since six,” he replied.
I paid my greens fees, and then ran up the hill to rent some golf clubs. I had checked out rentals earlier. When I returned, I inquired about getting a caddy. I usually rent a cart back home, but they aren’t allowed on the Old Course.
“The caddies went home hours ago,” the starter informed me. “They work in the mornings.”
There weren’t any pull carts either, so I carried my bag the entire 18 holes. I had caddied as a boy, so I was experienced. We were sent out as a fivesome instead of the usual foursome, so our rate of play was a little slower.
In the United States, slow play is frowned upon but prevalent. Not so on the Old Course. I’m a fast player, but some in my group were decidedly pokey. On the sixth tee, the Course Marshall appeared. He informed us sternly, “You are five minutes behind. Either catch up or I’ll make you skip the ninth hole.” Amazingly, my group caught up.
One of our group brought a friend to be his caddy. Another brought his wife to walk the course with him. After all, it was the Holy Grail. I asked Angie to come along, but she demurred. Later, she expressed regret for not having made the trek.
I shot 95, a good score for me. I had broken 100.