The Old Course at St. Andrews is to golfers what St. Peter's is to Catholics or the Western Wall is to Jews: hallowed ground, the course every golfer longs to play -- and master. In 1983 George Peper was playing the Old Course when he hit a slice so hideous that he never found the ball. But in looking for it, he came across a For Sale sign on a stone town house alongside the famed eighteenth hole. Two months later he and his wife, Libby, became the proud owners of 9A Gibson Place.
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Simon & Schuster
May 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Two Years in St. Andrews by George Peper
Chapter One: The Slice of My Life
It was a ghastly, careening push-slice -- the mongrel of all golf shots -- that changed the course of my life. Okay, maybe that's a bit breathless, but there's no question that the banana ball I perpetrated on July 16, 1983, was the finest shot I've ever missed.
The scene was the 18th tee of the most famous golf course in the world, the Old Course at St. Andrews, Scotland. As the editor-in-chief of Golf Magazine, I'd been invited, along with half a dozen or so colleagues from other American golf publications and newspapers, on a pre-British Open boondoggle, courtesy of a man named Frank Sheridan.
Sheridan had purchased the Old Course Hotel, the modern five-story monster that looms inharmoniously over the penultimate hole of the ancient links, the balconies of its sixty deluxe rooms jutting impudently outward from a chunky stucco frame. When the hotel first opened, back in 1968, Henry Longhurst aptly described it as "a dresser with its drawers pulled out," and despite its advantageous location, the place had never really caught on.
Sheridan, however, was determined to transform the hotel (which he'd rechristened the Old Course Golf & Country Club) into Scotland's premier hostelry, and to help make his point he'd drafted Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros to launch a weekend-long celebration with a head-to-head match on the Old Course, to be reported upon by us conscripted scribes.
But at the eleventh hour, there arose what the Scots refer to as a wee glitch. Commandeering a tee time on the Old Course is not a simple matter, even if your names are Nicklaus and Ballesteros. The St. Andrews Links Trust -- which controls play on all six of the town's courses -- had ruled that Sheridan's circus would not come to town -- it would create too much disruption to the regular Saturday morning play. And so, rather hastily, the battle of the titans had been relegated to Ladybank, a comparatively unknown parkland course in a nearby town of the same name.
"It's just down the road -- you'll see the sign," said the hotel porter on the appointed morning as I headed out the door to my rental car along with Golf Digest's Ross Goodner, Ron Coffman of Golf World, and Furman Bisher, the venerable and feisty sports columnist for the Atlanta Constitution.
Down the road Ladybank was, but a bit farther down the road than we'd expected. We'd driven roughly ten miles, all four of us craning our necks at every little sign, placard, and poster, when Bisher boomed from the back seat, "Aw hell, why don't we just forget about it and go play some golf."