It was with mixed emotions that the family and friends of Andy Gibson gathered to pay their final respects last week.
There were sorrow and mourning for the loss of a loved one, but there was a joyous celebration, too -- for a life so well-lived for 87 years.
And the stories! Anyone who knew Andy Gibson has a story to tell, most likely a personal recollection as vivid in memory now as when it happened, perhaps 40 or 50 years ago.
Gibson was born in Prestwick, Scotland, and was already an accomplished golfer when he came to the United States at the age of 19 to pursue a job in the sport. He turned professional a year later, and was an assistant at Baltimore Country Club and head professional at Bonnie View CC before landing at the CC of Maryland in 1943.
The two turned out to be a winning combination for the next 52 years, and even as late as a week ago Friday, Gibson was at the club doing two of the things he enjoyed most -- playing golf and talking. The next day, he was dead of a stroke, and even this seemed an appropriate way for him to go, for no one could imagine him having anything but excellent health -- not gracefully, anyway.
Many of the stories from and about him are well-documented, and quite a few of them involve what Gibson would call "high-spiritedness," or "a high level of friendly enthusiasm," and others would call temper.
At a club gathering years ago, a group of sports personalities, including several players from the Orioles and Colts, were asked to describe the most exciting thing they ever had seen in sports. When it came the turn of Larry Null, then the golf writer for The Sun, he declared: "Andy Gibson after three-putting a green." Needless to say, it broke up the party.
Mention the name Andy Gibson, and someone is certain to recall the rich brogue of Scotland that, not only did he never lose, but even seemed to improve upon as the years went by. His younger brother, Cammie, also an excellent player, used to come over from Scotland for visits. When the two were together, it was easy to believe it was Cammie who lived here and Awn-dee who was the visitor.
On one occasion, Gibson was out for a round of golf (in his case, saying he was "playing golf" might not have been the proper way to phrase it), and after a witness listened to one of his outbursts following the slight deviation of a putt on its way to the hole, he told Gibson to relax, it was only a game.
"It might be a game to you . . . " he screamed, adding a few more words and leaving no doubt it was something else to him.
Last winter, in Florida for some golf, he was bemoaning the fact -- as only he could -- that he wasn't able to hit the ball very far. "How old are you?" asked one of his companions. "Eighty-six" was the answer. "Do you think that might have something to do with it?" was the comeback. The thought probably had not occurred to Gibson.
Last week, while the stories were flowing, there was mention of the fact Gibson was now in heaven, playing golf and telling tales with his old buddies, John Bass and Frank Invernizzi. There was a pause, and one who was close to Gibson, said, "Well, if he's not in heaven, he's at least within the leather."