Walton, Vardon & the Blimp

Walmart founder Sam Walton
Walmart founder Sam Walton

In today’s Business Management class, we watched an A&E Biography on Walmart founder Sam Walton. Walton was a bulldog who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He had a vision, he wouldn’t give up, and he wanted to make good great! Walton was an interesting man and one of the wealthiest men in the world when he died of bone cancer in 1992 at the age of 74.

Then it was on to History of Golf. We discussed the Apple Tree Gang and the father of American golf, John Reid.

John Reid and Robert Lockhart both emigrated to the United States from Dunfermline, Scotland, but it was Lockhart, often back in Scotland on business as a linen buyer who really got the ball rolling toward the cup in America.

Lockhart’s home course was in Musselburgh where he learned the game under the watchful eye of Old Tom Morris. In the summer of 1887, on one of his business trips home to Dundee, then the largest linen-producing town in the world, Lockhart bought six clubs (a driver, a brassie, a spoon, a cleek, a sand iron, and a putter) from Old Tom Morris’s shop in St. Andrews and had them shipped back to the U.S.

Lockhart’s son Sydney recalled the day in the winter of that year when his father gave the sticks a try in New York City. Sydney and his brother Leslie accompanied their father to “a place on the river which is now Riverside Drive” where his father teed it up in front of a mounted policeman. “Father teed up the first little white ball and, selecting one of the long wooden clubs, dispatched it far down the meadow. He tried all the clubs and then we boys were permitted to drive some balls too. Curious, the policeman asked if he too could try. The officer got down off his horse and went through the motions of teeing up, aping Father in waggling and squaring off to the ball and other preliminaries. Then he let go and hit a beauty straight down the field which went fully as far as any that Father had hit. Being greatly encouraged, and proud of his natural ability at a game that involved a ball and stick, he tried again. This time he missed the ball completely and then, in rapid succession, he missed the little globe three more times; so with a look of disgust on his face he mounted his horse and rode away.”

Lockhart eventually had the clubs shipped up to Yonkers, the home of his friend and fellow countryman John Reid. On February 22, 1888, Reid and Lockhart joined two other men in a cow pasture in Yonkers to give golf a try. The ‘short course’ they played consisted of just three holes, but they were hooked! On November 14, 1888, the men reassembled at Reid’s home and founded the St. Andrew’s Golf Club. Lockhart was the first active member. Rumor has it that he was offered the position of president but declined because he was away too frequently. Reid ended-up becoming the club’s first president.

So why did the group get the name Apple Tree Gang? Their makeshift clubhouse was a bench surrounding an apple tree trunk on the course. At the time, apple trees were the defining element of the St. Andrew’s course in Yonkers. The six-hole course was in the middle of a 34-acre apple orchard overlooking the Hudson River.

Golf in America got another boost in 1900 when England’s Harry Vardon toured the United States to promote his new golf ball, Spalding’s Vardon Flyer and win the U.S. Open. Vardon won three Open Championships, was the first man to master the upgright swing, and could play any shot (low, high, draw, and fade). He’s also credited with what’s now known as the Vardon Grip, in which the pinkie of the right hand overlaps the index finger on the left hand (for right handed players). Check out this YouTube video of Vardon shot in 1911:

Then we started watching the 2005 movie “Greatest Game Ever Played” starring Shia LaBeouf. The movie, which is based on the book by Mark Frost, chronicles Francis Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open win over his boyhood idol Harry Vardon when he was just a 20-year-old amateur. Ouimet watched Vardon hit balls at a sporting goods store while on his nationwide tour 13 years earlier and was inspired. The movie, although entertaining, is full of inaccuracies.

The MetLife blimp is in town
The MetLife blimp is in town for the Open.

This afternoon, I played a round at Oakwood with a few of my classmates. On the 2nd tee, we looked up and spotted the MetLife blimp flying overhead. Maybe it’s headed to the Phoenix Open in Scottsdale. Or maybe it’s heading to the Super Bowl. What a week to be in Phoenix!

On the schedule tomorrow: Rules of Golf and Mechanics of the Short Game.

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