This is my favorite week of the golfing year. Sure the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA Championship all have history and excitement but nothing compares to the Open Championship… especially when it’s at the Old Course in St. Andrews. Usually we here at SirShanksAlot.com talk about golf clubs and golf news… well don’t worry because there is still plenty of that to come… but today I thought I would share with you a little story about when I went to the British Open in 2001.
One of the coolest things about working in the golf business is some of the people that you meet. The year prior (2000) I had worked with a girl that eventually went on to work for the R&A in St. Andrews. She sent me an email asking if I would be interested in coming to the Open and then playing some golf in St. Andrews. I don’t know of too many golfers that would say no to an offer like that. I rounded up a bit of cash (I was a student then) and booked my trip. The Open that year was at Royal Lytham and St. Annes so I flew to Manchester, boarded a train and got dropped off right at the course. I arrived late Friday afternoon… the tournament was still going on but jet lag didn’t allow me to see anything. I went and napped in the hotel for the afternoon. The R&A folks were staying in the same hotel as some of the players and I had a chance to see Vijay Singh (and his clubs) up close. I went to bed that night pretty excited!
We woke up early on Saturday morning and made our way over to the course. I was given an R&A entry badge that let me go pretty much anywhere that I wanted. I was allowed around the clubhouse, over by the range, in all of the R&A buildings and tents and even in the area set aside for players and their families. Most of these areas were “no autograph zones” so I could say hi to players but couldn’t get any autographs. I walked around the course all day while my friend worked in the tournament trailer. I followed the Tiger Woods circus for a while and eventually settled in at the driving range. The range was a great place to hang out and I got to meet a few players. I started talking to a French lady and she mentioned that her “guy” had played pretty well that day. I just thought she was a fan of someone but it turned out that she was Thomas Levet’s wife. I met Thomas and got his autograph… he was a very nice guy. I watched Tiger and Sergio on the range for almost an hour, saw my man Darren Clarke boot a bucket of range balls at a tent (he had missed a putt on the 18th and was mad) and then joined my friend in the R&A trailer. I couldn’t figure out why the trailer was so loud and why the phone was ringing so much. I soon realized that the people on the phones were players (sometimes agents or wives instead) looking for their Sunday tee times. A few players stopped by the trailer and got them in person too. I wanted to answer the phone but I wasn’t allowed… how cool would that have been?
We went out a bit late on Saturday night… people at the R&A know how to have a good time! We also got to the course a bit late on Sunday. We set up shop on hole #5 and then eventually made our way over to #18. We watched a whole bunch of groups come in and followed the leaders by watching the big yellow scoreboard that towered over the 18th green. We ran onto the fairway as the last group walked towards the green… everyone else started running so we just followed. David Duval gave his speech on the 18th green and then it was time to go… we had a train to catch!
We took the overnight train to St. Andrews and arrived there really early Monday morning. I remember driving into St. Andrews and seeing the Old Course for the first time. It’s really just a big field beside the ocean. I noticed the hotel right away and then I figured out where everything else was from there. After a quick nap I went over to the practice range to hit some balls. I hadn’t played very much that year so I wanted to get a lot of practice in. The practice facility is really nice and there are lots of bunkers to hit out of. I spent the afternoon walking around the town checking out some of the golf shops. Later that night I found out that I had a tee time for the Old Course the very next day. Getting a tee time at the Old Course is sort of like winning the lottery if you’re a golfer!
I spent the next morning at the golf museum and the practice facility. All I could think about was my tee shot at #1… I had to hit it pure. There are always people watching the 1st and 18th at the Old Course and I knew that hitting a solid shot was a must. I’ve never been more nervous than I was standing on the 1st tee at the Old Course. I was playing with my friend and a few members. It must be strange for the members there… people come from all around the world to basically worship a course that these guys play everyday. I hit a really good tee shot and went on to par the first hole. I’ll save you the time and not go through each hole but here’s my scorecard…
Front 9 – 4+4+6+4+10+4+4+4+4=44
Back 9 – 4+4+3+4+5+5+4+6+4=39
I was happy with an 83 especially after a 10! I stayed away from Hell Bunker and the Road Hole Bunker and actually played pretty well. I went on to play the New Course the next day and then left for home. It was a trip that I’ll never forget!