Memoirs from 2010 Senior Open at Carnoustie
This amazing trip was not what I expected at all and had some very memorable occurrences that I’d like to share with you.
The trip started off on the wrong foot when I just happened to ask fellow traveler big Mikey Staskus if he had remembered his passport when we were 5 minutes from the airport. Mikey said aaaah actually no, will they take a driver’s license. I’m sure you can guess what my reply was as my friend driving us to the airport now had to drive big Mike back to his house in Los Altos to retrieve his passport to catch a later flight to Heathrow. No big deal, I would just need to wait an extra two hours at the Glasgow airport on Friday afternoon. Of course more travel drama faced us as Mikey missed his connection to Glasgow and was delayed an additional 3 hours.
Waiting in an airport for 6 hours when your deliriously tired is NOT fun. As I was sitting in a bar trying to watch the Open at St Andrews I found myself falling asleep while sitting upright. I noticed the people around me looking at me while my head was bobbing about half unconscious. Once Mike arrived the next challenge was the rental car. This Kia wagon was slick and perfect for our baggage and clubs. The challenge however was not that they drive on the wrong side of the road and from the right of the car, it was that we had a stick shift on the left side of the steering wheel. I was so tired that I asked Mikey to drive which he readily agreed to. What I didn’t know was Mike had never driven in the UK before, let alone manual transmission with a left handed stick shift. No knock on Mike but the drive was not the relaxing experience I had hoped for at all. In fact it was 2 hours of white knuckling terror as Mike had a hard time staying in the proper lane, and difficulty finding the right gear.
I think we both were relieved to reach the Holiday Inn express in Dundee without being involved in a major auto accident. Our journey had only just begun, but the drive from Glasgow to Dundee was dramatic and terrifying.
The next day we left for our qualifying course, Monifieth Golf Links, in the early afternoon for a practice round. The drive to the course was an adventure as my IPhone GPS took us on a route that just didn’t work. Finally on the proper road I had just again reminded Mike AGAIN to stay right and in the center of the road, 30 seconds later……WHACK Mikie took out the mirror of a parked car while shattering ours. Initially I thought we hit the body of the car, but fortunately we only took out the mirror. Getting back to the car we had just hit was our next challenge as we got stuck in the middle of the road and had cars honking at us from both sides. Needless to say, this was not the relaxing start I was hoping for on our quest to qualify for the 2010 Senior Open.
Once at Monifieth we were able to calm down and begin to focus on the task ahead of us. That day we both had great caddies that knew the course. Mike had a fine gentleman named a Ron who has been a member of the club for many years and lived just down the street. My caddie for the day was a nice young lad named John whom worked in the starter’s booth. We enjoyed a fine practice round with winds only blowing at about 20MPH. I decided I’d better take over the driving and give Mike a rest so that our nerves would have a chance to calm down.
The qualifying day I had my new pal Andy Masters on the bag for the day which started off to be sunny and warm with only 10-20mph winds. We decided to leave the umbrella and rain gear in the car to keep down the weight of my carry bag. By the 9th hole this turned out to be a HUGE mistake as a very heavy rain storm came off the coast. Steady rain at first, followed by a downpour that drenched me to my core. Not only was I drenched but the one towel we had was wet along with all of my gloves. I knew I was at or near the qualifying score at -1 and somehow had to manufacture shots while the club was twisting and turning in my hand. Thanks to my putting I was able to save par on 15 and 17 with 4-5 foot par savers along with two good two putts on 16 and 18.
Once safely in and out of the rain which of course stopped when we finished, we again enjoyed one of the many pleasures of Scotland, their FISH AND CHIPS. The fish and chips at Monifieth were perhaps the best I’ve ever had lightly battered Haddock freshly caught the night before. I know this will not sound amusing to the reader, because you had to be there, but when Mikie asked the waitress “where is the fish from” her one word answer was “Sea” which had everyone laughing hysterically. We repeated the story to many others that we ran into but nobody could quite grasp how it was delivered.
The move into the Carnoustie Hotel was quite nice as I now had an Ocean view and I overlooked the practice green. This would prove to be quite the noisy location as the grounds crew would prepare the massive green every morning starting at 4:30 am. Since sleep was at a premium, the early wake up call was quite annoying.
After my successful qualifying round I called my father in Houston and gave him the news, and that he and his wife should book a flight out immediately to Carnoustie to join me for the main event. I was thrilled to see Arthur and Karen arrive at the Hotel Wednesday evening so they would be there to see my 1st shot off #1 on Thursday at 7:40 am. Having my dad their watching me play 72 holes in the Senior Open made the whole experience that much more memorable. I’d see him in the gallery with his binoculars squarely pointed at whatever I was doing.
Over the past 20 years I’ve traveled to Scotland perhaps 10 times to play in the British Amateur and St Andrews Links Trophy Cup, and my recollection was that I really didn’t care for the food, weather and accommodations. This trip however was the complete opposite, I LOVED the food, accommodations and especially the Scottish people and spectators. These people know and appreciate their golf, and to have them clap even on mediocre shots showed me the appreciation they have for the game and how tough this course really played.
Over the course of Tue-Sun I had the chance to meet almost all the BIG guns in the event with the exception of Tom Watson. I just couldn’t get myself to bug him in the dining room, although he did seem quite approachable. I got to actually play golf with names like Weibe, Cochran, Schultz, Wantanabe, Brand Jr, Harwood, and Bob Gilder who finished birdie-birdie on 17 & 18 to make the cut on the number.
I guess I could go on and on about the people I met, the experience being inside the ropes playing perhaps one of the worlds toughest courses, and making the cut and being low amateur.
Being Low Amateur meant I received a silver medal on the 18th green in front of thousands of cheering golf fans. It also meant that I was able to shake Corey Pavin’s hand as runner up and the champs hand Bernard Langer. After getting a picture with Bernhard I was able to introduce my father to him while still on the 18th green at Carnoustie. The celebration dinner to follow was thoroughly enjoyable with champagne and a fine meal while watching the sky slowly start to darken, although at 10:30 PM the sky was still light and the sun had barely disappeared.
Even if it never happens again, it was a dream for me as a lifelong amateur to make a cut in one of golf’s majors while my dad was there for every shot. I learned a lot about myself and the game on this trip and how to never dream the impossible, and then to cherish every moment.
In closing I’ll just add that the life of a professional golfer is not perhaps as glamorous as we see it on TV. There are more guys that don’t play well than you see in the leader groups come Sunday. There is tremendous pressure on these guys to play well so that they can survive and make a living doing what they love to do. For me it came down to the Marshall on the 9th tee, who said to me I was the first person smiling that had come through on the final day. I told him that’s because I’m the only one left in the tournament that’s not playing for money. If it make a couple of extra bogeys it didn’t cost me thousands of dollars. I just needed to post a 72 hole score and collect my grand prize, an awesome silver medal that will always remind me of this great experience I had while in Scotland at Carnoustie.
Thanks for following along Randy