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The Game Could Be Older Than the Royal and Ancient

Mention the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews in Scotland to the golf aficionado and you will usually get a reverential tribute to the sport’s birthplace.

But mention St. Andrews to Chinese professor Ling Hongling and all you will get is an argument.

In a recently published report, Ling, of the Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, claims that golf originated in China four centuries before they were whacking the ball around Scotland. Ling said the ancient Chinese game of chiuwan was the forerunner of golf.

The first mention of chiuwan was recorded in 943, according to research by Ling published in the current issue of the bulletin of the Australian Society for Sports History.

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It remained popular until the 15th century, wrote Ling in his paper “Verification of the Fact that Golf Originated From Chiuwan.”

Ling suggested chiuwan might have been taken to Europe by traders in the Middle Ages, eventually being refined into golf.

Chiu means hitting and wan means ball.

The study, certain to spark widespread international debate on the golf’s origins, has already been denounced by officials of the Royal and Ancient.

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“It is a hoax, an academic joke,” the club’s official historian, Bobby Burnet, told Melbourne’s newspaper, the Age, which printed details of the report.

Golf is believed to have originated in Scotland about 1350. The Royal and Ancient Club was formed in 1754 and is regarded as the traditional home of the game. The idea of an 18-hole course, according to Burnet, was decided upon purely because of the local peculiarities of the layout at St. Andrews.

Add Australia: Jahangir Khan, the six-time former world squash champion, took his wrath out on a female referee after losing the Australian Open final in Melbourne Sunday, his second major defeat in a week.

Jahangir, who lost in the final of the World Open to Australia’s Rodney Martin in Adelaide a week ago, lost to another Australian this week, second-seeded Chris Dittmar, 15-10, 14-17, 15-10, 15-8.

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The Pakistani praised his opponent, saying he deserved to win, but then launched an unprecedented attack on official Chris Sinclair.

“Women referees should stick to women’s tournaments,” Jahangir said. “They have never played at the high level of men’s events. I will make a recommendation to the International Squash Players Assn. that women don’t referee men’s matches.”

Sinclair was not available for comment, but tournament referee Alison Oliver responded, saying: “A referee is a referee, whether male or female.”

Trivia time: Last Friday was the third anniversary of Wayne Gretzky’s arrival in Los Angeles. Only two Kings on the roster that day remain. Who are they?

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Song Sung Blue: Although stunned and dejected by its defeat to the Cubans in the Pan American Games Tuesday night, the U.S. water polo team didn’t forget it was President Fidel Castro’s 65th birthday.

When Castro presented the team its silver medal in Havana, the American squad responded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” eliciting applause from the Cuban fans.

Trivia answer: Luc Robitaille and Dave Taylor.

Quotebook: Danny Reed, the 6-foot-7, 400-pound senior nose tackle at West Virginia’s Poca High, on the problems with his helmet that caused him to quit the team last season: “It was so tight, I had trouble thinking.”

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