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LONDON SCENE: St. Andrews misses Olympic golf by four years

Editor’s Note: In addition to covering athletes and events at the Summer Olympics, Cronkite News Service reporters are offering occasional observations about their experiences.

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ST. ANDREWS, England – “So when was the Old Course constructed,” I asked my caddie on the seventh fairway.

“Oh, the course was never constructed, my friend,” Dave Lindsay replied with a smirk.

Most courses in the states reach for some kind of mystic tradition, whether it’s an annual tournament or a lofty member. The Old Course in St. Andrews attracts some of the most high-profile people worldwide, but there is no person or event more important than the course itself. People of the town treat the course as if it were their blood relative, while guests drool at the sight of golf’s birthplace.

Like my caddie said, the course was never constructed. It plays as God intended. The bunkers throughout the course took shape from sheep huddling behind banks to shelter themselves from the wind, while the fairways traverse through the thick weeds and gorse.

I traveled the 350 miles from London and the Olympics to St. Andrews to see what the locals thought about golf joining the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Not surprisingly, they weren’t too happy it wasn’t included in these games.

After all, this is the birthplace of golf, the ideal venue to debut the sport.

Of course, since I made the trip, I had to play the Old Course. It was the first round of golf where I didn’t actually feel like I was playing golf. I could care less if I stuck a 9-iron to 2 feet or if I shanked a drive out of bounds. Just the feeling of walking the fairways where the true legends of the game once set foot was enough to make the hair on my arms stand up.

Having not played links golf before, I was doomed from the first tee box. I have a problem of hitting the ball abnormally high, and when my caddie saw my first tee shot he let out a little giggle and said, ‘Boy, you weren’t born a links player.”

I surely wasn’t born a links player, but by the end of the round my caddie had me putting from 50 yards off the green.

This was a different four-hour round. I didn’t curse or explode with anger. Rather, I laughed and heard old stories from my caddie.

When you play the Old Course, you get lost in a fantasyland. You hear stories about why each bunker was named and how the legends of the sport played the course. I was fortunate enough to miss the famous Bobby Jones bunker where in the 1926 Open Championship Jones couldn’t get out of the greenside bunker on the par-3 11th. He picked up his ball, walked off the course and vowed he would never play links golf again, only to return the next year to win the Open Championship.

There are few times in life that you have the privilege to soak in such rich history and at the same time play the game you love. Walking up the 18th fairway will be a memory I will hold forever.