Stymied rule wasn’t unsporting

2010-11-25 00:00

HAVE you ever been stymied? Of course you have. Most people know what it means — it’s when you have been foiled or hindered or you are in a difficult situation or position.

Someone mentioned this the other day, but did you know that the term “stymie” was used at one time in golf?

Way back when the game of golf was first played, the ball couldn’t be touched until it was put into the hole, not even to clean off lumps of mud that had stuck to the ball. The stymie only applied to the matchplay form of the game and from a point of view from someone who never played golf with this rule, it appears that it was a fairly mean and unsporting thing to do to your opponent, but it was part and parcel of the game.

Prior to 1952, when the rule was eliminated, in matchplay you couldn’t ask your opponent to mark his ball if it was on your line. You had to play around it, or with the deft use of a wedge, over it. Stymies in golf added a touch of croquet to the game.

The games of snooker and pool also have blocking-your-opponent rules so it wasn’t considered so awful. It was evident that the Royal and Ancient and the United States Golf Association didn’t agree on the stymie because the Americans wanted it removed from the rules in 1938, but the Scots didn’t agree. There was a compromise before the Americans eventually got their wish.

Green keepers around the world must have rejoiced when the stymie rule was abolished because players could legitimately use a wedge and take divots out of the green. That doesn’t seem a logical thing to do, in fact, today it’s unthinkable.

Last weekend’s results:

Victoria Country Club held a four-ball Stableford alliance on Saturday. The winning combination was M. Chetty, K. Perumal, L. Kelly and R. van Niekerk with 92 points. In second place were A. Greene, T. Tatham, B. Sherriffs and P. Walker on 89 points.

Maritzburg Golf Club also held a four-ball Stableford alliance on Saturday in aid of the Knights UK squash tour. The winners on 91 points were J. Hattingh, G. Grant, G, McKenzie and D. Biggs. In second place were C. Nel, L. Nel, R, Nel and R. Spearmen with 90 points.

From the 19th hole:

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. I was asked by my friend and regular golf partner, who is a funeral director, to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery out in the sticks in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

I was not familiar with the area and I got completely lost. I finally arrived an hour late and saw that the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.

There were only the diggers and crew left, and they were eating lunch. I felt bad and apologised for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down. The vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play. The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played like I’ve never played before for this homeless man with no family or friends. And as I played Amazing Grace the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept, we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and headed for my car.

As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say: “I never seen anything like that before and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for 20 years.”

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