Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chapter 5: Saturday Evening Post

      After weeks of searching I have found the letter that started this BLOG. So I interrupt our storyline with this Saturday Evening Post.   It is Saturday, it is Evening and I am determined to Post.
     In 1913,  Harold Hilton, Britain's highest ranked amateur golfer, wrote a letter to the editor of Golf Illustrated an abstract of which you will find below.  Hilton held almost all titles including the Open, and he was the only English amateur to win our US Amateur Championship.

October 10, 1913
       Now that Abe Mitchell has severed his connection with amateur golf we wish him the very best of luck.  We know him to be a fine golfer, a real good fellow, modest and unassuming and a sportsman. But while wishing him this full measure of fortune, we feel regret that on the eve of his departure from amateur golf he should have seen fit to unburden his soul regarding the disadvantages under which he contends he laboured as an artisan golfer in the amateur ranks.
      Even if there were justification for his complaints, there are some things better left unsaid and he would have been well advised had he refrained from these eleventh hour revelations.  We do not think that what he contends is altogether correct.  Mitchell says that, in the light of his own experience, the artisan golfer is not wanted in amateur golf.  We disagree, and to support our views, we have Mitchell's own statement that he was welcomed at his first championship -- Hoylake, 1910. We can vouch that the attitude of the members of the Royal Liverpool Club differs not one tittle from that of any other of the big clubs in the country.  Mitchell was very well liked at Hoylake that year, as he deserved to be.  As far as his personality is concerned, he is always popular and always has been.
      In 1911, at Prestwick, Mitchell says there was a change in his reception.  The atmosphere was charged with hostility.  We have no doubt that any lack of enthusiasm would not have been due to a loss of personal popularity, but simply prompted by the feeling that Mitchell was gravitating toward the professional ranks.  To be unequivocal, it was freely stated that could Mitchell win the Championship he would forthwith turn professional.  There was a strong feeling that it was hardly playing the game to utilize the chief honour in professional golf as a stepping stone to securing a good paid position.
      At the Championship at Westward Ho!, in 1912, rumours appeared in the press without denial from which the golfing world drew its own conclusions. Playing against John Ball in the finals, Mitchell must have had the feeling that the sympathies of the spectators were not with him, a feeling that was openly shown.  This was due to a coterie of Mitchell supporters who exhibited a spirit of class animosity, disorderly and unpleasant as to eventually bring the matter into the police courts. It could not increase  the sympathy for the artisan golfer.  But never for a moment was it suggested that Mitchell was responbible for these outbursts.  On the contrary Mitchell must have found it distasteful.
      Coming to the Championship at St. Andrews this year Mitchell entered for the event after he openly avowed his intention of becoming a professional.  He could hardly expect to be received in the same spirit as if he had entered with no such intention in mind. When he had the misfortune to meet a player whom the crowd at St. Andrews simply idolize, he would assuredly have found the sympathy of spectators with his opponent.

One cannot get away from the fact that Mitchell may unwittingly brought his troubles on himself by failing to recognize that the golfing world strongly disapproves of anything that may tend to make less clear than the distinction between an amateur and a paid player.  That any lack of sympathy was due simply to his being an artisan player, we cannot for a moment believe.  The true artisan amateur has always been welcome at championship meetings.
                                                                                                        H.H. Hilton

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