It is still seven days until Birkdale hails “the Champion Golfer of the year” but the gates opened today on the first official practice day at the 146th Open Golf Championship.
We have been lucky to live in some fortuitous places when it comes to major events; in London during 2012 Olympics; ten minutes walk to Epsom Downs and The Derby when we moved to Surrey; on the route of the Notting Hill Carnival in west London and down the road from the Boat Race when we lived in Chiswick. The latter example was memorable mostly for red trousers and chinless wonders drinking Pimms but enjoyable nonetheless.
Today was the high point. The biscuit. The custard cream (still my favourite biscuit) of major events. We were able to walk – Aoife went on her pink scooter with matching helmet – twelve minutes from our front door to the oldest and greatest golf tournament anywhere on this planet. This was a good day. So good that in my position David Cameron might have said he was “pumped up”!
It is 21 years since I last went to The Open – I find that hard to believe – and a bit embarrassed – but it is true. The visitor experience has certainly come on leaps and bounds since then – and when I think back I have happy memories of my previous visits to Lytham and St Andrews – partly because I followed Jack Nicklaus in 1996 as he shot 67 in the second round and got to exchange a cheery ‘hello’ with Tom Watson the previous year. I called him “Mr Watson”. The range of facilities and attractions today was impressive including a superb indoor soft play area for children which Miss J made great use and short work of. The only way we persuaded her to leave was to say let’s go and find Rory – she has a cousin called Rory who I think she thought we were seeking out across the Birkdale dunes.
Today was a great day to to get our bearings and have a good look round. We have season tickets for the whole week so will be back every day and happily we are inundated with visitors throughout that time. I will be taking great friends, family and clients and catching up with lots of folk who are also there. I’m hoping that by Sunday we will get good at this Open attending lark. Practice makes perfect.