13. The Fateful Year
In 1939 the R&A implemented their decision to limit the number of clubs to fourteen, as adopted by the USGA three years earlier. Those who still thought that it was necessary to carry up to thirty clubs to play the game resented it, but I was still happy to have twelve, as were many of the leading players.
The Silver King tournament was at Moor Park, with its massive mansion clubhouse encased in Portland stone and an interior decorated with magnificent paintings and plasterwork on the walls and ceilings.
John Betjemen wrote in ‘Metroland’: -
“Did ever golf club have a nineteenth hole
So sumptuous as this?”
In the lounge bar is a bronze sculpture commemorating the fiftieth year in the game of the club’s first professional Sandy Herd, one of the great players of the Victorian era. Meeting him at Moor Park brought to mind a long forgotten story about his famous ‘ferocious waggles’, which often reached into the teens before he made his stroke. In a competition many years before a young player took the mickey by counting the waggles in a ‘stage whisper’ – twelve, thirteen, fourteen ---. At this point Sandy stopped and looked up at the young man. “Laddie, ye canna count”, he said, “That was fifteen! Now we’ll start again”. One classic quote said of Sandy: “The waggles are many but the shots are few” and Bernard Darwin wrote: “The number of his waggles is only exceeded by that of his friends. I cannot conceive that Sandy ever had an enemy. If he lives to be a hundred he will still be the same fine, sturdy, independent, ever youthful creature”. He was famous for the longevity of his game and the previous year he had scored 70 over the Moor Park ‘High’ course on his seventieth birthday. In his long career Sandy had nineteen holes-in-one He was a formidable matchplayer and in 1926 had won the News of the World British Matchplay championship for the second time, at the age of 58! 1939 was the last year that the 1902 champion - the first to win with the ‘Haskell’ rubber-core ball - was to play in the Open. Appropriately it was at his hometown of St. Andrews, where he had made his debut in 1885 at the age of 17. He was 71 and his appearances in the championship had spanned fifty-four years.