Sunday 19 July 2009


Doesn't the Open just make your heart swell with pride to be British?

Is it possible to have a sporting competition more woody than one in which the trophy is a silver claret jug hosted by an organisation called the Royal and Ancient Golf Club? ("Yes" - I hear someone say - "one hosted by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club" and I take your point, sir, as Peter Alliss would say)

I've touched on this before but there's just something about a brisk Sunday afternoon in July on a Scottish links course - the leaders walking up to the 18th green to a ripple of applause as the shadows lengthen. And after the play-off, that wooden table with the trophy like an English public school's prizegiving. The president of the R&A's speech (in his rich Scottish accent) before he hands over to the Captain of Turnberry - in his navy jacket and crisp white shirt, hair blowing in the breeze - to make the presentations. The medal for the best amateur presented first - a 16 year old Italian boy. How quintessentially British spirit of fair play: remember that the next time you want us to invade somewhere for you.

And the BBC's cinematography (one can almost call it) is simply awesome: I'm always amazed at how they get camera angles which are visually stunning but without forsaking the aim of showing you where the ball is at any moment.

Someone sent me an e-mail alluding to the "so-called British (sorry!) Open" being held in Scotland. But there's nothing to be worried about - there is no impropriety in the British Open being held at Turnberry as Scotland is as much a part of the United Kingdom as Middlesex or Yorkshire is. Indeed, as Scotland is the home of golf, it would be surprising if the British Open were not held in Scotland from time to time. If anything, as a loyal citizen of the UK, I regret that it's not held in Northern Ireland more often (or indeed at all).

Anyway, we watched it on Portuguese Sport TV which is the BBC with a Portuguese voice over. We were amused when the Beeb cut in quiet moments to shots of the Ailsa Craig (which for non-British readers is an island off the coast of Turnberry). Peter Alliss would have waxed lyrical for ages about how the island is nicknamed "Paddy's Milestone" as it's equidistant by sea between Belfast and Glasgow recalling the days before aeroplanes when many Irish people used to migrate by ship to Scotland for work. Peter could also have chatted away for another ten minutes about how Ailsa Craig was the source of the world's finest curling stones. But the Portuguese commentator didn't know any of that and couldn't think of anything to say but "Aah - um ilhéu" - an islet.

We would have preferred a Brit to have won - and how close did we come with Wood and Westwood coming in at 1 under - but falta that (as we Portuguese speakers say: French speakers say faut de mieux), we would have preferred a European (Irish is good but Spanish works as well) failing which an old boy like Greg Norman (last year) or Tom Watson (this year). So Cink sneaking out of nowhere to win was not our first choice and I must say I would have felt better about it if there hadn't been that oafish chanting of "USA, USA, USA!" in the audience at the end. I'm surprised the stewards didn't move them on - indeed how did they get in at all: that sort of thing might be all very well at Augusta but it's NOT on at the British Open.

Anyway, that's all by way of a very long digression to the point of this post which was to provide you with a handy translation of golfing terms into Portuguese in case you find yourself here (or in Brazil) next year when the Open will be at St Andrews:-

hole - buraco
pin - bandeira (literally "flag")
shot - bancada (or shot)
bunker - bunker
birdie - birdie
bogey - bogey
eagle - eagle
putt - putt
par - par

You get the picture - the Portuguese commentary is not too hard to follow. The same goes for tennis, incidentally, and all you need to know is that set is partida. And point is ponto as in "ponto de break". Passing shot is passing shot. Etc. You'll be fine with Wimbledon in Estoril. I leave you with a picture of Peter ("tickle it up to the hole - I say, sir!") Alliss. Comforting:-


Kathie said...

I spotted that ilhéu on our TV coverage here in the US, too (do different nations all use the same video feed, then just add their own announcers?). Didn't watch too much of the coverage, though, since I tend to regard golf as Mark Twain famously did, namely as "a good walk spoiled," while my husband thinks golf on TV is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Have you tried "rustic golf" yet, the cross-country counterpart of the fancy-pants game? I understand there's a 9-hole course somewhere on Flores (could you do a post re where it's located?) -- although I shudder to think how one manages if the ball lands in a fresh cow-patty -- ewww! Well, at least you could have your own ilhéu, in the form of Monchique.

Mary said...

Golf - yawn - I'm with Kathie on this one. Turnberry looked good though. I tuned in at the end to see that nice man Tom Watson's triumph, only to see that bright green man snatching victory. TW so magnanimous though - and to think that on his way home he set off the airport scanner alarms with his artificial hip!

Kathie said...

And I, in turn, am with Mary on how gracious Tom Watson has been (I assume, of course, that 2nd place produced a reasonably generous payday as well). Incidentally, Watson's playing in a seniors tournament in England this week, where he might well be the favorite to win. Of course, some of us don't think he's all THAT old ;-)

National Public Radio had an interview with Watson's caddie Neil Oxman on Monday. Turns out his real career is as a campaign consultant for candidates for major political office (including our current Governor) right here in Pennsylvania! You can read highlights of the interview by clicking on:

Mary said...

Neil, you'll like this story: google "First links course to be opened in a century built with nature in mind" (Herald 23 July - Machrihanish Dunes)

Kathie said...

Mary might especially enjoy the following article in this morning's fishwrap, re a new way to recycle unwanted golf-clubs:
"There are no bogeys in this veggie patch":

Among the choicer lines: "...Mr. Ekas, who works at Saxon Golf Course in Sarver, finds that golfers can be forgetful when it comes to their clubs... What really makes this garden unique is what's between the beans and the tomatoes -- peppers staked with golf clubs. Yes, golf clubs. The club faces are in rows, holding the peppers erect... For the past eight years, he has used the forgotten clubs in his garden. After cutting off the grips, he pushes the shaft into the dirt... [they] never rot and can be stored in the garage over the winter. As the pepper plants grow, he rotates the club faces to help support the fruit. He likes to sit on the back porch looking out at the garden and periodically changes the arrangement of clubs..."

Be sure to see the photo accompanying the article!