Okay….I must admit that the intro video snippets for the British Open pulled me in…pulled me back…. to Scotland….to St. Andrews. It is a city whose sheer beauty of antiquity took my breath away when I first laid eyes on her almost a decade ago now. But she still has my heart. The beckon of the nearby sea is strong here, but this venerable town clings tenaciously to the land upon which it sits. It is a landscape of ancients amidst the modern. It shines with the patina of age in ways that an upstart colony just shy of 250 years is simply unable to do. The narrow alley ways, cobblestone streets, and skeletal remains of cathedrals gently arc the temporal continuum and send you catapulting back in time. I must admit that I am easily and happily swept up in the thoughts of time travel.
It’s the history and tradition that compels me…centuries of it. St. Andrews has long been considered to be the home of golf because the sport was first played on the links here in the early 1400s. That is decades before Christopher Columbus made his exploratory voyage in search of a New World, to put it into a chronological perspective. The Old Course, located on the fringe of this magical place, has influenced how the game is played today. Its view remains largely unchanged despite time or progress. Playing here is said to be so close to the original idea of something now fully modern. I absolutely adore how the old meets the new in this time honored tradition.
It’s the University…..an institution that dominates the city centre being founded in 1410. It is the third oldest in the English speaking world. Its ivy clad walls boast centuries of graduates who came, and still come, to this hallowed place to fulfill their destinies… mathematicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, and politicians. As I looked at this esteemed institution of academia, the words of John Keating echoed ever so softly in my brain: If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary. It is quite easy to feel that one might be capable of being extraordinary by merely setting foot on this distinguished ground.
It’s the people…so loyal and proud. They, from the street sweepers to museum curators gifted with preserving her legacy, knowledgeably proclaim her history and they brandish their heritage in ways I SO wish Americans would emulate. They drape themselves in their past like a standard bearer. They understand that the way they are now is because of who they were then. Eons of struggle have served to make them into a hale and hardy stock who embrace their kinsmen and gregariously welcome a visitor. The indomitable strength of their spirit is not easily threatened by outsiders.
The primal tug was strong as these images splashed before me each morning on ESPN while the melodious accented voice of Ian McShane hovered in the background cushioning this magnificent scenery into a familiar cognizance. I had to pause and wonder. Do we possess ancestral memory? Have my Scottish forebears implanted a primogenitor seed of connection to these roots of ancestry that is so tangible in my longing for this place? Can these images and mere words germinate that morsel into a passionate yearning? That is a mystery to which I do not have a ready answer. Whatever the origins, it is a place of inexplicable enchantment. And yes, it is indeed both…..royal and ancient.