I’ve covered quite a few Open Golf Championships over the years and it’s always a favourite time of year for me. The biggest and best golf championship in the world was heading back to Northern Ireland. There was much anticipation and excitement and Royal Portrush didn’t disappoint.
I was working as a Reporter and Commentator for Open Radio – which broadcasts at home and also abroad on SiriusXM across the whole of the United States. Our job was to convey what was happening on and off the course to our listeners, interspersed with the colour and flavour of The Open. The sights, the sounds, the spectators and the spectacle that is the Open Golf Championship. We had so much more to delve into with Royal Portrush back on The Open rota after a gap of sixty one years. We recalled the journey and the history of the club, what it meant for Northern Ireland to have the Championship and we reflected the sheer joy and excitement of the locals who were beside themselves in expectation of getting a glimpse of Tiger Woods. I’d never seen queues at 6 o clock in the morning at an Open – and that was on the practise days!
Over the six days I was there, I interviewed players, coaches, greenkeepers, course managers, meteorologists, staff at Royal Portrush and members of the Championship Committee, on course scoreboard workers and scorers, those carrying the scoreboards, spectators from abroad, locals, Northern Ireland tourism, Tim Henman and Brian O Driscoll, Northern Ireland falconry, European Tour players Megan Maclaren and Felicity Johnson and many more.
We had such variety on our shows. In addition to the wonderful golf played, the win by Shane Lowry, the great hospitality of Portrush and of course my great team and colleagues, there were three other highlights for me:
The fantastic 8 times major winner, including 5 Opens, Tom Watson, was an Ambassador for The Open at Royal Portrush. I’d interviewed him several times during the 2009 Open when I was working for BBC Radio Scotland. He, of course famously, lost the play off against Stewart Cink after failing to make a par at the last for what would have been his sixth Open title. He must’ve been crushed inside but he was a real gentlemen throughout and never refused an interview. A class act. Fast forward to Portrush and I managed to wangle an
interview with him on the third days play. I’m not sure he really did but he said he remembered me. It was nice to hear, whether it was true or not. He was full of praise for Portrush and its people and his love of The Open was clear. Now that he’s announced that he won’t be playing competitive golf in the UK any more, it makes that 20 minutes with him even more special.
Another very exciting moment for me was getting access to the Players Clubhouse. It was the first time that the R and A had built an area that had every facility a player could want, and all in one place. I was given a guided tour for @The Open Radio. It had everything from travel services and a creche, to a smoothie bar, a pasta bar, a café and restaurant. As we recorded our walk and talk, I clocked Bubba Watson, Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood . There was a physio and a massage area and a fully equipped gym, where Justin
Rose was working out. There was a quiet area, a meeting area and then of course there was the locker room. Walking in there was like walking in to a who’s who of golf – Jordan Speith said hello, Padraig Harrington wandered past. There was even a barber on tap. Players apparently don’t leave time to get their hair done. So, I interviewed barber Sam as he was doing the hair of Spain’s Jorge Campillo. I was careful not to distract!
The dark mahogany lockers had the names of every player taking part in The Open. There were bags and shoes lined up and at one end there was a separate area for the Champions. Not just Open Champions but the European Amateur champion, the USA amateur and the Asia Champion. They had their special place. Phil Mikelson was there but no sign of Tiger. It must’ve been quite surreal I guess, for Scotland’s Bob McIntyre, a left hander playing in his
first Open and, whose hero is Mikelson.
I was very careful to be as unobtrusive as possible but it was very relaxed and informal and this was before the action started so the players were too.
It was great to see behind the scenes – a real insight into another world.
My other highlight was interviewing the O’Connor family. Fourteen year old Rory O Connor from Ardglass Golf club in Royal County Down, has cerebral palsy down his right side but it hasn’t stopped him from excelling at golf, never mind playing it. He plays left handed and one handed and is a dab hand at chipping and an even better putter. He was able to meet up with hero Graeme McDowell at The Open to get some tips and it was a pleasure to speak to him and his family afterwards. What an inspiration and proof that golf really is for everyone.
So thank you @royalportrush for everything and I know we’ll be back soon.