Transferred to Sagan in early 1943, he joined Commonwealth captives in the East Compound, its 920-yard perimeter formed by parallel nine-foot barbed-wire fences seven
feet apart with elevated guard posts at regular intervals.
(Americans were next door in the Center compound. Two
additional American sectors a quarter mile removed, the
South and the West, opened later, adjacent to the North, the
second British enclosure.) The oldest and smallest, the East
was the most advanced then in its games. Ward-Thomas
jumped right in.
Something magical materialized before him in spring—
golf, or at least “a wonderful echo”—when he saw a fellow
prisoner batting around something resembling a golf ball
with a battered hickory. The ball was little more than a small
piece of pine wrapped in cotton, but the club was the real
deal, a woman’s mashie sent to an injured prisoner who used
it as a walking stick until his wound healed. “I shall never
forget the thrill of handling a club again after all that time,”
The camp had its first twosome.
For hours on end, they hit back and forth over the flat,
dusty landscape—a good whack might travel 60 yards—to
see who could reach a distant tree stump or electric pole
in fewer strokes. Others eyed them as if they were loons
but joined in. All shared the single mashie at first— Ward-Thomas estimated that ur-club, lost in the evacuation,
hit hundreds of thousands of shots—but access to it was
predicated on every player showing up with his own ball, and
cherished hand-crafted commodities they turned out to be.
(Several are displayed at the R&A, the USGA Museum and
the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.) When the roster of players
reached 12, they dubbed their enterprise the Sagan Golf Club