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Day 4 at Scotland:Posted Thursday, July 16, 2009, at 1:07 PM
The 2009 Open Championship began at Turnberry on Thursday morning. I would say that my day started in perfect fashion with a 7:30 a.m. starting time a few miles away at Prestwick Golf Club.
This is significant because the Open Championship began in 1860 and Prestwick hosted golf's oldest event for its first 12 years. I would like to take a moment and introduce you to my caddy, Chris McBride. He is going to help take us through this wonderful Scottish journey.
Caddies can be a fruitful source for history and trivia. In my lifetime, I have been fortunate to play some great courses with caddies- Augusta National, Pine Valley, Oakmont and Royal Troon, just to name a few. Chris McBride rates as the finest caddy I have ever had because he provided more than just correct yardages, local advice and the line on my putts.
Chris helped me understand the significance of the Open Championship and how this part of the world has shaped championship golf as we know it. His descendents were Irish. They changed their name from the Irish McBryde to the Scottish McBride. They did so, hoping to get jobs in the Scottish shipyards at a time when Irish Catholics couldn't get hired.
According to McBride, the greatest Scottish golfer in history was a fellow named Alan Robertson. "He was undefeated in four ball play. No one could touch him- not even Old Tom Morris," said McBride.
Robertson was a golf ball maker and one of his "featheries" recently sold for 28,000 pounds! He died in 1859 and is buried twenty feet to the right of Old and Young Tom Morris at St. Andrews. Upon Robertson's death, heated arguments surfaced all over Scotland as to who would be the countries best player would be.
In 1860 the first Open Championship was held solely for the reason of seeing who would be Robertson's successor. It was a three round stroke play tournament and Prestwick was chosen as the site.
At the time, the course had 12 holes. The Open Championship of 1860 was won by Willie Park. It consisted of three 12-hole rounds in one day. "They started in the dark and finished in the dark," said McBride.
Over the years, Prestwick was converted to an 18-hole course. The last Open Championship played there was in 1925. There is a stone monument on the site where the original first tee was. When the course opened, the #1 hole was a 587 yard, par six. In 1870, Young Tom Morris made a three on the hole on his way to winning the Open.
The 17th hole, a par 4, at Prestwick is known as "Alps" because the green lies over and beneath the base of three large hills. It is the only original and undisturbed hole from the 1851 layout. It was then the 2nd hole.
There is not much maintainable turf at today's Prestwick. The 18-hole layout rests on about 85 acres of land, which is located in Ayshire within eyesight of Turnberry Bay on the Atlantic Ocean.
"Even though it is no longer on the Open Championship rota, it is still used for major Amateur Championships. Prestwick remains to this day a marvelous test of golfing skills and despite today's modern equipment the course is still challenging and fun to play. It is a course which reminds all who play it of the essence of links golf as originally conceived," says the scorecard from Prestwick.
My group consisted of fellow PGA Officers, Jim Remy, President; Allen Wronowski, Vice President plus Joe Steranka, Chief Executive Officer. We played Prestwick from the club designated tees of the day, about 6,500 yards. Our round finished under the allowed 4 hours and 11 minutes for a foursome and we walked.
I used a driver once in the first five holes. The "wee stretch" from 7 through 13 featured five par 4's that ranged in length from 430-460 yards; a 215 yard par three and a 550 yard par five. The home stretch included the 16th and 18th which were 284-288 yard holes that were drivable. Prestwick was an 18-course meal that provided everything your taste buds could ever want!
During the round, I learned several new golf terms courtesy of McBride, the caddy.
"A son-in-law shot" is not what you were hoping for, but you will live with it. Let me go on record as saying that I have two great son-in-laws.
"A mother-in-law shot" is looking good going away. No comment.
"A sister-in-law shot" is up there where you know you shouldn't be. Hmmmm.
"A Lebanese Hotel" is one of the large sand bunkers at Prestwick.
Even for a guy as savvy as McBride, this is an exciting week. "The local train was loaded at 6 a.m. this morning. Lots of foreigners headed to the Open. The weather forecast looks perfect and somebody could shoot 63 out there this week. It'll probably be somebody in the first round that won't finish in the top 10," quipped McBride.
"We have a group of Americans coming in on Sunday morning to play. They don't know it yet, but I am riding with them on their bus up to Turnberry. I can't wait to get there," concluded McBride.
And I think that says it all about being at this Open Championship!
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