From Chicken Soup for the Golfer's Soul The Second Round

Through the Footsteps of Time

The men crouched behind low stone walls. Musket fire pierced the air above their heads, seeking randomly the warm flesh of the unlucky one who happened in its path. Worse yet were the sorry souls cut down by cannon fire, the evil spheres that succeeded in the demise of multiple patriots with every blast.

It is hard to imagine the angst, the fear and the nobility of the brave soldiers who squared off on this rocky slope.

I was flooded with emotion as I strode down the majestic fairways of the Carnegie Abbey Course in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. On a perfect New England spring day, I was playing golf with new friends Don, Patrick and Bill. We had just hit our drives on the tight, slightly dogleg left, par-4 6th hole. I was struck by a sight of a Colonial-era graveyard surrounded by massive stones, stones that for hundreds of years had silently stood as sentries to the confines of its occupants. While the inscriptions were moving, I found it even more fascinating that this noble sight must have sat in near obscurity for two centuries before its liberation from the scrub brush by the artistic stroke of the golf course architect.

Describing my emotions to Bill, he was quick to note that directly beneath us, less than twenty yards off the tee, was the final resting place for forty former slaves who had lived and farmed the property during part of its long history.

Approaching our drives, I turned to Manny, my caddie, to express my reverence for this special place, when Manny informed me that far more was to come. On cue, Bill explained that this beautiful, rolling property on Narragansett Bay was the location of numerous confrontations during the American Revolution. Specifically, the hole we were playing was the very sight of the “Battle of Bloody Run, ” where estimates are that five hundred to two thousand men had lost their lives and were buried beneath the ground we strode.

I stood for a minute in awe, consumed by the thought that a place that was now so beautiful could have been the sight of such violence.

I can never remember feeling on a golf course the way I did that day. Part of me felt out of place, as if I was violating this land that still belonged to the hearts, sounds and emotions of its past. Another part of me felt a true reverence, a sense of common union with this spot and an appreciation for the people who had been there before me.

That’s when it hit me.

How wonderful, how fantastic is this game of golf that by using this land as the canvas upon which a beautiful and challenging golf course would unfold, this distinguished land would be freed from its past and from the obscure pages of history. I will admit that I did not know a thing at that time about the “Battle of Bloody Run, ” much less the actual spot where the battle took place.

Now, thanks to Carnegie Abbey, the efforts and the sacrifices of these brave men would not be lost to obscurity, but would be remembered and forever celebrated because of numerous historical markings and environmental sensitivity.

I love the game of golf, not only for its dignity and camaraderie, but because every now and then the game becomes a vehicle to explore and appreciate something deeper, as on this day, a garden memorial to people who gave so much so that we may enjoy the moment.

Matt Adams

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