There are many sportsmen who have fallen into superstitions. You can find multiple lists featuring these weird rituals online (most bizarre for me was Les Miles’s game-time tradition. While Miles was the football coach at Louisiana State University, apparently he had a pre-game ritual of eating grass off the field!). Bernard Darwin’s short story The Wooden Putter looks at one golf player’s superstition.
The name of the player in question is Mr. Polwinkle. Mr. Polwinkle is not a very good golf player. In fact, his “handicap obstinately refused to fall below 16.” (Here is a good explanation on golf handicap system) And he is not too pleased to be often beaten by his friend Buffery – an 18-handicap player!
So after accidentally discovering his ability to swing the clubs in his grand collection – just like the pro golfers who had previously owned them – Mr. Polwinkle accepts Buffery’s challenge to play another round of golf. The game starts off well for Mr. Polwinkle. But when he misses a few of his hits, he realizes his mashie, one that was owned by a legendary golf player, must have been switched with an identical club. Mr. Polwinkle had met Jones, another golf player the previous night who owns a similar looking mashie. Confident that their mashies must have gotten mixed up, Mr. Polwinkle sends his caddie to Jones. However, instead of bringing the mashie back, the caddie returns with Jones’s wooden putter!
This completely wrecks Mr. Polwinkle attitude who is sure this means he’ll lose the match. However, the caddie assures that the wooden putter had been owned by Tommy, a professional golfer who used it in a great match. That provides Mr. Polwinkle with a much-needed confidence boost, and he soon begins his onslaught against Buffery who gives up the match!
After that Mr. Polwinkle goes to see Jones to thank him for lending Tommy’s putter. Tommy had been the greatest putter ever, and Mr. Polwinkle is convinced that’s why he won the match. So Jones innocent revelation comes to Mr. Polwinkle as quite a surprise!
According to Wikipedia, Bernard Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandson, was a “golf writer and high-standard amateur golfer.” One can assume Bernard must have seen enough things on golf links which inspired him to write this. But to me, The Wooden Putter lacks humor, and its predictable ending made it rather dull.