The Trophy Symbol of Victory
There are so many ways in which ardent golf fans live vicariously through the modern game and the people who play it better than anyone else. For starters, although the pros never quite get to the point of making it look easy, they do make it look successful compared to the rest of us, and in the absence of anything stronger, that’s good enough.
The professionals jet around the world on a weekly basis, visiting beautiful lands, being welcomed with red carpets, in some cases, and mix with powerful, prestigious people. That’s a powerful motivator for one living vicariously through their favorite links hero. We see how much money some of them make, and ignore the fact that most don’t make all that much. Who wants to live vicariously through someone who’s starving on tour, using the last of their pocket change to catch the bus, and walking on the edge of losing their tour card?
I could go on and on. However, true as these visions are, they are fuzzy. Most of us don’t keep that close track of how much a player wins, and although we see them surrounded by beautiful people, that happens in many walks of life for those who reach the top of the mountain.
The crowning visual for many is the presentation of the trophy, and the subsequent holding aloft, fondling, kissing and hugging of hunks of metal, glass, wood, plastic, and some other ingredient used to make a symbol of one player’s victory.
Many of us have never been presented with a trophy, outside of the odd “World’s Best Dad,” the bowling league attendance award, etc. Those of us who wanted one did everything we could, from spelling bees to entering match play tournaments with 30 stroke handicaps, all to no avail. If it’s not destined to happen for a person, that person will receive no trophy for anything in his or her entire lifetime – off limits to the non-winner.
Presumably, the presenting of trophies began after ancient battles, probably Greek and Roman. The awards consisted of captured arms, gear, or body parts. In those days, laurel wreaths and money would have to suffice, but we finally got the trophy thing going as a symbol of a competitive event around the 18th century, despite some attributing the practice to the “loving cup” passed from member to member of the congregation, courtesy of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. That couldn’t have been right, because everyone got one.
In golf, trophies have been created for everything – long putt, long drive, best foursome, and a million other categories, but the king of trophies goes to the single winner of stroke play, as it did in ancient times for the greatest warrior.
The English word, “trophy,” likely comes from the French “trophee (a spoil or prize of war). The French comes from the Latin “trophaeum,” (a monument to victory), which in all likelihood, comes from the Greek “tropaion” (back to arms and body parts).
The modern golf trophy began to appear around the 1930s – most of us probably thought it was a lot sooner (although chalices were often given around 1600). Early ones were tied into royalty, but have increasingly abandoned that look, although Rory McIlroy has one that not so strangely resembles a scepter). The Vardon Trophy was one of the early ones, for the average annual scoring average. The Charles Schwab Cup is a recent one for most “points” earned in a season.
When mediocre golfers go to bed and dream, I believe that, more than the riches, the beautiful people, the low score or the exotic itinerary, they dream of holding the most tangible symbols golf can offer, whether it’s a coat or a cup. Thank goodness we have dreams – those things are hard to win.