When we had an offer accepted on our house in Birkdale in the autumn of 2015, one of my first actions was to consult the R&A website. I had a notion that another Southport Open Championship was just around the corner. I was right. Just under two years to go. The planning started.
It was soon in the diary with a promise to make the most of it. We have definitely done that. Two weekly season tickets and eight days of play later – with great friends staying with us or meeting up with friends at the course each day – I can safely say Team Jones got the most out of our local Open. It has been a wonderful week.
There have been lots of highlights. Here are a few:
- The course was sensational – set up perfectly. Tough. Fair. Beautiful. It is rightly regarded as the best course in England – it’s perfection.
- The facilities were first class, including the brilliant focus on young golfers and young would-be golfers – the soft play zone was Aoife’s favourite spot on the course!
- My selfie with Ernie Els was a personal highlight – even though it made me look like I was sat down!
- Sky’s coverage has been superb – the best I’ve ever seen, including the insightful Paul McGinley who is showing other former players how to do it
- Being on course the day the all time low major round was shot was great as was meeting two South Africans taking pictures of Brandon Grace’s scores on the leaderboard, beaming smiles, off to celebrate with a beer
- Being part of the Rory roar was super special – as was his comeback on Thursday early evening
- Watching Speith’s mental toughness today was something to behold – his final five holes were out of this world, almost hard to believe
- Drinking champagne with my father-in-law, just weeks after finishing his cancer treatment
- Drinking champagne with my wonderful wife and darling daughter (who was not drinking champagne!)
- Drinking a cuppa whilst Colin Montgomerie passed me on a buggy; “hello Monty”!
- Speaking to Gary Player – who I called “Mr Player” – he deserves as much respect as it is possible to summon
- Sitting in the greenside grandstand at the fifth and watching Rickie Fowler drive the green and then make an eagle two
- Having my photo taken with the Claret Jug
- Getting so close to the players during practice and trying to soak up their rhythm – hoping it rubs off on my game
- Being able to walk to and from the course every day – the novelty never wore off
- Ending the week with a Caribbean-style sun tan
- Seeing how much Dr J and Miss J enjoyed The Open experience – nearly as much as I did
What a week; what an Open. It was a complete privilege to be there and be part of this magnificent event. I can’t wait now to get back on my own links – a drive and a long iron from Royal Birkdale – and put all this inspiration to good use.