When the Grand Old Duke of York marched 10,000 men up to the top of the hill, for instance, and promptly marched them back down again, the critics of the day were unrelenting in their lampooning of such pointless military extravagance.
At least the noble Duke's wheezing infantry made it to the summit. Today at four venues across Lancashire, a sizeable battalion of golfers will make an assault on yonder peak that is the Open Championship in local final qualifying. And, for all but a handful, it will be a fruitless task.
Last week, at 14 venues across the UK and Ireland, some 1400 players, who had paid their £140 entry fee for the world's oldest major, gathered in the foothills for the regional qualifiers as the arduous, ambitious trek towards the Open began. Most collapsed by the time they'd got their metaphorical rucksacks on.
At Abridge Golf Club in Essex, a little known fella called John Cowgill went round in 97. But give him credit. His Open dream may have turned into a nightmare but at least Cowgill still posted his score instead of joining the posse with a NR or a WD next to their name. It could've been worse. Back in 2008, Stirling-based John Spreadborough got the tongues wagging at Musselburgh when he cobbled together a solid 99 that was marred by three straight pars. Comparisons were immediately made to the late, great Maurice Flitcroft, the Barrow crane driver who hoaxed his way into final qualifying for the 1976 Open and shot 121.
Only 141 players from last week's regional rounds made it through to today's 36-hole LFQ event where the task is even tougher. Spread across four courses – Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, West Lancs and St Annes Old Links – a total of 288 players will be fighting it out for just 12 Royal Lytham tee-times (three at each venue).
Of course, the Open door has been slowly closing over the years for these particular hopefuls. The introduction in 2004 of the 36-hole international final qualifying event, which was set up to create a more open Open as it were, has eaten away at the numbers on offer at the local qualifiers. This year from Australia, Africa, Asia, the USA and Europe, a total of 28 players, ranging from Ryder Cup player Ross Fisher to world No. 834 Aaron Townsend, have earned Open slots. For those hardened foot soldiers trudging down the more traditional route into the Open, this global pandering is often viewed as bit of a kick in the regionals.
"If players really want to play in the Open they should make the effort to come over here," suggested Cawder's former Scottish PGA champion Chris Kelly, who came through a five-man play-off in regional qualifying at Bruntsfield Links last week and was lining-up at West Lancs today.
Despite the uphill task faced by the masses, the lure of the Open, its majesty and its history, still keeps them coming back even though the odds are increasingly stacked against them. "It's a lot tougher now than it was when I first gave it a go but filling in your entry for the Open is still one of the first things you do at the start of the season," added Kelly. "It's the Open after all."
Back in 1999, the local final qualifying event at four courses in the Carnoustie area offered up a total of 49 Open places. Times have certainly changed and the numbers have dwindled. Yet, one thing that has remained is the inspiration that can be taken from that particular year. A certain Paul Lawrie qualified at Downfield and went on to lift the Claret Jug. Those Open dreams can occasionally come true.
Fifteen minutes of fame? Forget that. In these fast-moving times, most folk seem to be quite happy with a few seconds of utter lunacy.
Now that football's European Championships are over, we will at least be spared the constant sight of spectators realising that they've been caught on camera and projected on to the big screen. Before you knew it, the galvanised dimwits had started whooping, hollering, cuddling and phoning long lost relatives while simultaneously trying to look at themselves performing this bewildering frenzy. In golf, the irritating equivalent is the constant attention seekers bellowing 'get in the hole', 'you're the man' and the inexplicable 'mashed potato'.
It was somewhat soothing therefore watching coverage of the third round of the AT & T National at Congressional, when bad weather meant spectators were not allowed in on safety grounds. The tranquility was remarkable. Sadly, it didn't last long.