The Open Championship?

January 30, 2009

July 1997

Growing up in the suburbs of Columbus, I was fortunate enough to have access to some of the best golf courses in the country to play and practice on.  Any kid who has played golf invariably has stood on a putting green lining up 10-footers “To win the US Open.”  I did it all the time, and still do.

But, the major championship that always piqued my curiosity was the The Open Championship, the only one played outside the United States.  Most of the courses used for this tournament are located in Scotland, the birthplace of golf.  I was always excited to turn on the TV early in the morning to see what kind of conditions the professionals would have to endure that day, or that hour, since it seemed to change so often.  Even in the middle of the summer, you would see players, caddies and the crowds bundled up in sweaters, caps, gloves, blankets and a copious amount of plaid.  It would rain sideways for 20 minutes, then miraculously, become sunny and benign.  Then it would rain again and blow 40 off the ocean.  I was always glad to be curled up in a comfy chair with my coffee, chuckling at how cold they must feel, but secretly wanting to experience it for myself.

I was in the middle of my fourth year as a professional caddie for Chris Perry.  The 1997 season had been up and down, with a couple of decent finishes in March at Doral in Miami (T-13) and Bay Hill in Orlando (T-14), but many missed cuts, too.  I wanted Chris to send in his application for Open Championship qualifying, which would involve us flying across the pond to play 36 holes at a course we had never seen with no guarantees other than spending the money to be there.  He was dismissive at the idea and felt he needed to be playing much better to even think about such a trip.

The deadline for the application was following the Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas in May.

Chris missed the cut at the two events (Greensboro and Atlanta) he competed in leading up to Dallas.  Things weren’t falling into place the way I thought they needed to for him to agree to go to Scotland.  I was beginning to resign myself to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen.

Then, he shot 65 at Cottonwood Valley in the opening round to be among the leaders.

Second round – 67 at TPC at Las Colinas.

Third round – 66 at TPC.

On Sunday, we played in the second to last group behind the final pairing of Lee Rinker and Tiger Woods.  A 70 on a windy and raw day rewarded CP with a tie for 5th and a good deal of confidence in his game (Tiger won in a thriller over Lee).  I remember being especially proud of the Columbus caddies finishing 1, 2 and 5 that week.  Mike Cowan (Fluff) won with Tiger and at the time lived on the north side of Columbus.  Dennis O’Brien, still haunting the OSU golf courses,  finished second with Lee Rinker.

Word came down from the boss. We were going across the pond!

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