Ernie Els Jordan Spieth Gary Player and 17 others. Even Tiger Woods. His caddying gig had finished hours earlier so Thompson sat alone flag in hand. There was one more champion signature to obtain and Molinari was just finishing his press conference.
We talked for a while he left came back in all his wooly Old Tom garb and told me his life story — that is Old Tom’s life story — in character. Holy crow. I wrote it up in a book. I’ve thought of Joy often over the years but I had never seen him since that day.
Six weeks earlier Heather my wife had died from breast cancer. But it was her wish that I play if offered a pick by Captain Woosnam. Lee Westwood and I were the last match out on Friday morning and who do we draw to compete against but Chris DeMarco and Phil Mickelson.
I first became aware of this bit of golf lore in 1991 courtesy of a man named David Joy an artist and actor and native son of St. Andrews who just then was developing Old Tom as a character.
He didn’t mean that literally of course. He would be lugging a Tour bag all week and he’s plenty fit to do so. “I teach for a living and always teach with a club in my hand” Thompson clarified. “It’s like I was born with one in my hand. It’s always a part of me.”
Now it’s funny — but if I’d missed the putt it wouldn’t have been funny. Now he says he knew I was rattled and he wanted me to make that putt to win the match. So typical Phil trying to teach lessons. But it was wild. I mean a 25-footer!”
But as it happened I was paired with Phil for the closing ceremony and as we walked off the stage Amy bless her stepped between us and grabbed my hand. It was one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me. Their support was huge.
Everything he was about to go through I’d already been through so I tried to help him and Amy any way I could. I don’t know if I did help but it was nice to know I could give a little back to them. It’s been great to see Amy come through this whole thing. A happy ending that one.
“Oh gosh they’re probably running 20-plus” he said of the hard-pan runways. “The greens maybe 10 1/2.” Next question: Why the wedge? “I’ve just had this one re-shafted” he said sounding like a player. “I struggle to walk anyway without a club in my hand.”
On a par 3 I had hit it to about 25 feet and Phil hit it to about 35 feet. Phil made his putt which put the pressure on me. And he was chattering you know like he always does. I made the putt on top of him and he said ‘You know that ruined a great story right?’
I knocked on the door and David Joy answered. He remembered our visit and he had the book on his shelf with hundreds of others. He’s in his late 60s and recovering from a stroke and learning to paint again and doing it spectacularly well.
On Friday after a long day at the paragraph factory I met Bamberger and fellow colleague Sean Zak for a late dinner in St. Andrews. It’s a bit of a drive to get from there to Carnoustie but I had chosen to stay in the Auld Grey Toon because I love it so much.