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Day 2 from the British Open ... in ScotlandPosted Tuesday, July 14, 2009, at 7:17 PM
This trip is my first away from North America. I have always heard of jet lag and now that I have experienced it, let me confidently tell you that it is not underrated! After being up for approximately 40 straight hours, I awoke on Tuesday morning at 1:30 a.m. EST (Indiana time) to start my day. And psychologically that was a blow!
My first destination was the Royal Troon Golf Club and a 7:50 a.m. local tee time. This is one of the spectacular courses that are part of the regular rotation for the British Open. Built in 1878, Royal Troon is a seaside links course. The opening seven holes run away from the clubhouse and overlook the ocean.
The tournament tees at Royal Troon stretch 7,175 yards. We caught this Scottish gem on a docile morning. The sun shone brilliantly off the ocean and the breeze was rather gentle. The fairways, although irrigated were a mixture of green and brown turf, which is customary for Scottish links courses.
The greens were excellent and a little on the slow side. The bunkering at Royal Troon is classic pot bunkering with faces featuring layered stacked sod. The bunkers are deep and the sod walls can be a nemesis. The sand is brown and heavy, but very playable.
I made my first birdie of the trip on the 5th hole, a 210 yard par three. I hit a 5-wood into the wind about 12 feet from the hole and made the putt. I mentioned that the first seven holes were seaside. The 8th hole is a 123-yard par three, which features a small green and as a result it is named "Postage Stamp".
The locals refer to the fescue rough at Royal Troon as "hinchu" and as the Scots say, the first foot is "rather juicy". That is a fact that I can testify to!
The number one handicap hole on Royal Troon is the 11th called "The Railway" because a train runs alongside the right of the hole. This train runs from Ayre to Glasgow, which is about a 35 minute trip. Separating the golf course from the railroad track is a stone fence built in 1784 by Bill Shepman. This par four hole played 421 yards for us- 490 yards from the tournament tee.
I never knew Bill Shepman, but I am now in debt to him! My errant second shot, struck with a 5-iron, went wayward to the right and bounced off Shepman's wall onto the green about 25 feet from the hole. I collected my par and moved on.
As you can imagine, a place like Royal Troon is laced with history. Recent Open winners include Todd Hamilton, Justin Leonard, Tom Watson, Tom Weiskopf and Arnold Palmer. The next Open to be played at Troon will probably be 2014, although that announcement is forthcoming.
This was one of those rare days in golf when the surroundings, circumstances and company far outweigh the quality of the shots hit. My caddy, Kevin, has toted bags around Royal Troon for 20 years and in his own words, "is the youngest lad in the company."
After lunch at Royal Troon we headed over to Turnberry and our first look at the site for this week's Open Championship. One of the real pleasant parts of the day was being in the clubhouse when Jim Remy, President of the PGA of America, informed Tom Lehman that we are giving him an exemption to next month's PGA Championship at Hazeltine in his home state of Minnesota.
Lehman, a former Masters champion and Ryder Cup Captain, responded with a big hug to Remy and a heartfelt thank you. "I know you guys have important sponsors at the PGA and if there is anything I can do to help, just ask." That was a classy move by one of the all-time great guys to play professional golf.
We walked around the main area and kind of got our bearings for the rest of the week. I checked into the Media Center and was assigned my worksite the week. Kenny Perry was in the media center interview room at the time.
Turnberry is located about 30 minutes from our lodging in Ayre. On the way home, we drove the coastal road. This will be our route to and from Turnberry each day. It is less traveled and the scenery is breath taking.
The road winds along the steep cliffs overlooking the Turnberry Bay, part of the Atlantic Ocean. Scotland is inhabited by many beautiful, small cottages. Most are made of stone or stucco. The properties are clean and tidy. Many dwellings are perched on the tops of hills where the beauty reaches as far as the eye can see.
The fields and meadows are luscious and emerald green. The white dots you see are hundreds of sheep that graze on the hillsides. Joining the sheep are herds of cattle. One particular species is known as the belted cow. This black cow dates back to ancient times and is native to Scotland. This cow actually has a white ring around its middle, resembling a belt and that is why they call it the belted cow.
Life here.......... seems simple.
As I finish writing this story from the small tea room at the Ellisland Hotel, six local ladies are nearby enjoying their afternoon tea.
The chattering stops and the ladies turn to the small television in the room. The Sky Network is showing live footage of eight Union Jack flag draped coffins that are being returned from Afghanistan. These are British soldiers who were killed in action a few days ago- the worst disaster of the war for this country.
Reality always has a way of showing up.......... even for the Scots.
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