Rare golf manuscript comes to the ‘fore’

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 19:  Mungo Park (L) the Great Grandson of Mungo Park, the first winner of the Argentine Open, and Great Grandson of Willie Park Snr presents the original articles and records of the Argentine golf federation to Director of the Argentine Golf Federation Mark Lawrie during the first round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on July 19, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)
LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 19: Mungo Park (L) the Great Grandson of Mungo Park, the first winner of the Argentine Open, and Great Grandson of Willie Park Snr presents the original articles and records of the Argentine golf federation to Director of the Argentine Golf Federation Mark Lawrie during the first round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club on July 19, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England. (Photo by David Cannon/R&A/R&A via Getty Images)

A rare golf book has been restored and preserved for future generations, thanks to a collaborative initiative involving the sport’s governing body, the R&A in St Andrews.

Mungo Park, great grandson of Willie Park senior - he was the first Open champion in 1860 - has saved, restored and preserved the book that details the very beginnings of golf in Argentina.

As Mr Park explained to the Citizen, the Open Championship Committee of the River Plate dates back to the early 1900s and is a rare glimpse of how golf developed in that country.

Mr Park’s grandfather, Mungo Park jun, won the very first River Plate tournament in 1905, a championship that would go on to be the Argentine Open and one of the oldest national open golf championships. Previous winners include Angel Cabrera, Craig Stadler and Roberto De Vicenzo.

He said: ”I am very happy that we were able to protect this rare book. It offers a rare insight into the growth of the game at that time. It is of personal significance for my family and I am happy to see that the heritage of the game in Argentina is now preserved for future generations.

“I would like to thank those who made this possible, namely the R&A and Masterworks Golf. The R&A has a long record of protecting the heritage of the game with the British Golf Museum in St Andrews being just a small percentage of their work.

“Masterworks Golf specialises in rare golf photographs detailing the history of the game. It is apt that it was these two companies who helped me make this happen.”

Mr Park, who resides in Gloucestershire, has now handed over the restored book to the Argentine Golf Association (AAG).

The presentation, which was made to Mark Lawrie, director of the AAG, marked the end of a journey which had started in East Hampton, Long Island, where Mr Park first became interested in the foreign exploits of his grandfather and his brothers, Willie jun. and John.

All three sons of Willie Park senior were exceptional golfers in their own right. Willie Park jun. was the most famous, but his two brothers also had exciting careers at the frontiers of golf, as it became established in the late 19th century in North and South America.

In 2007, Mr Park travelled to Buenos Aires to celebrate the centenary of San Andres Golf Club, the course that his grandfather had designed in 1907. In that same year his grandfather had won his second Argentine Open, then referred to as the Open Golf Championship of the River Plate.

The book, which had been held in the library collection of the AAG and was in poor condition, was a significant find in the shared history of golf in Argentina and in Europe, and Mr Park decided it deserved attention and research.

The first step was to stabilise its physical structure, which was at risk of being lost if not restored and he set about negotiating with the Argentine authorities to bring it Britain where the necessary expertise existed to restore it.

He sought the help and advice of Moira Buick, a specialist book and paper conservator in Bristol, and thanks to Dr Guillermo Rosas, an enthusiastic golf historian in Buenos Aires, it was agreed that the book could leave the country.

Some of the cover was already turning to powder, and it was clear that the scope of Moira Buick’s work was more substantial than had previously been hoped. However, finance was generously contributed by the R&A Heritage Committee through Angela Howe, director of the British Golf Museum, and Howard Schickler, owner of Masterworks Golf.

Now fully restored and re-covered in its original form, retaining and binding in as much of the original material as was possible, it includes all of the original manuscript pages, the end papers and the re-use of the original embossed cloth cover. Safely back in Argentina, it has been digitally recorded on CDs which have been lodged at the British Golf Museum for research purposes.