October 24, 2009

When Golf Changed The World

Golf historians often like to puff up the importance of the history of the game, and often record accounts of important matches, tournaments and players as though they were world leaders effecting change on the planet with their every swing. While golf is an integral part of the lives of many a world leader - Dwight Eisenhower, for example - rarely does the game itself truly shake the tree of events so strongly that it changes the fate of men and nations.

Once, however, that did happen, and much of the way the world is now had to do with golf. Specifically, the game was the catalyst that led to the rise of the English as a true world power, and through the centuries that have passed since, that rise has affected almost every period in one form or the other. In fact, England's global status still ha much to do with the realities of now.

During the 16th Century, America was being settled, and the dominant western European powers of that time were Spain and France. The Spanish were extracting gold from the New World and shipping it back the mother country literally by the shipload, and the French were doing much the same with other American natural resources. England, a player in the race to dominate the Americas was not as big a player as the other two, yet it was growing stronger despite the political turmoil of the throne and their government.

Enter Mary Turner. Mary was born to Scottish Royalty, and through her maternal ancestry, she had deep ties to the French House Of Guise. In her first marriage, she joined into the perhaps the most powerful families in Italy, the House of Medici. She was raised in France and through her first husband, she had claim to the throne of France. Unfortunately for her, her husband died, taking her claim to the throne with him.

Her power base removed, in 1560, Mary decided to return to her native Scotland, a place where she still had legitimate royal powers. She remarried, betrothed to Lord Darnley, a man who was murdered not many years after their matrimonial union.

Shortly thereafter golf changed the course of the world. Mary, an avid golfer, fell afoul of the Church of England for playing the game shortly after Lord Darnley's murder -- according to them, her time of the links showed a great disrespect and lack of proper mourning for her late husband. Interestingly, today, the skull of Darnley is now in the Royal College of Surgeons in London and bears the telltale pitted marks of Syphilis. Darnley's notorious promiscuity would have finally had the better of him had he not in fact been killed, yet Mary was damned and persecuted for playing golf...which is, of course, a very accepted way for one to put away their troubles, at least for a little while.'

It was this event that almost certainly fouled Mary politically, leading to inevitably to her execution for treason in 1587.

Mary is credited with bringing the term "caddy" into the golf. In France, military cadets carried golf clubs for royalty, and it is possible that Mary brought the custom to Scotland, where the term evolved into the word "caddy." She was also the first woman to practice and play the game in Scotland, making her one of the earliest as truest of women sporting pioneers.

So How Did Golf Change The World?

The beginning of Mary's downfall in Scotland is clearly attributable to golf as political cover.

Her execution caused an absolute outrage and calls for war against England throughout Catholic Europe. This resulted in the invasion of the Spanish Armada in 1588 - an event set in motion partially to avenge her death and the military goal of the Armada was to depose Elizabeth I and return the throne of England to the Catholic Church.

The results of the battle were far-reaching: the Spanish were suffering a humiliating defeat in the English Channel, thanks to inferior tactics and weaponry. Even worse for the Spanish, the weather turned against them and heavily damaged their fleet, making the English defense of their homeland all the easier. In defeat, the Spaniards fled terror around the coast of Scotland, and for home. The lasting result was the clear establishment England as a global power - and establishing the English empire not only in Europe and the Americas, but also freeing it to conquer India and other countries.

Would these events have happened had Mary Queen of Scots chosen not to mourn her dead husband on the links? Possibly, but history shows the old game as the clear catalyst that set in motion events that have forever changed the world.

1 comment:

  1. Judging from the love fest bestowed on Payne Stewart this week, Payne invented golf and is the sole reason golf is even being played today.

    Great article, CB, I truly appreciate the extra effort you put into your 'stuff'. It is always first class...


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