Don’t Mort me

How many times have you hit a putt that seemed headed for the heart of the hole, over a distance long enough to allow time for some well-intentioned playing companion to announce, “It’s in,” “nice putt,” “bingo” or some similar proclamation of success — only to see the putt lip out, stop short, or hit the back of the cup and remain on the grass instead of in the hole where it belonged?
When that occurs, you’ve been morted.
At Stillwater Country Club, members have used that term for years. It derives from a former club president, Mort Sherod (1972-’74), who quite naturally and justifiably blamed his optimistic but loose-lipped playing partners for predicting the imminent success of one of his putts if the putt subsequently failed in its duty to disappear into the hole. It’s a beautiful expression; in addition to being named after the man who most frequently made an issue of the situation, the word is also French for “death.” When a putt has been morted, it has metaphorically been killed — and tragically so, just on the cusp of triumph. You can even mort yourself, both by word and deed. Even if you don’t say anything, that premature arm raise, or that first step to pick your ball out of the hole when you’re sure it’s going in, but it stays out — you’ve self-morted.
Whether the expression will ever gain widespread traction at other Minnesota clubs, or in even broader golf circles, is up to the golf gods. But it is a perfect example of the collective creativity of golf club memberships, each of which has a unique makeup and customs and expressions of its own. Terms like “birdie,” “foozle,” “looper” and “putt” had to come from somewhere.
If your club has a unique expression that fills a need within golf’s lexicon, feel free to add it to the comments section of this post. And don’t mort your playing partners.

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