&A 9 Hole Championship 2018
Mo Young and I could hardly believe it when we were told by England Golf several weeks ago that we had been successful in qualifying for the R&A 9 Hole Championship. It was to be held at Carnoustie just before the Open Championship.
We set off for Scotland last week with some trepidation but we need not have worried. After checking in to our rooms at the Carnoustie Hotel on Friday we negotiated all the stands and concession tents and eventually found the Pro shop and the golf course. Colin Sinclair the Head Professional was very friendly and said we could walk the 9 holes we would be playing on Saturday. We saw Adam Scott practising on the course.
We then attended a registration/briefing along with the other 35 men and 5 lady finalists. There were 10 pairs from England, 4 each from Scotland and Ireland and 2 pairs from Wales. In addition, there was a pair from the host golf club, Carnoustie. The briefing was run by Duncan Weir, Executive Director of Golf Development for the R&A along with Kevin Barker, Director of Golf Development for the R&A and Colin Sinclair. We were told that nearly 15,000 players from 500 Clubs had played in the qualifying competitions.
We were given our tee times for the following morning along with the names of the other two finalists we would be playing with. Each pair was split up so were all playing with people we had only met the previous evening. We were given goody bags which contained 3 Pro V1 balls, an Open cap with our names embroidered on the back, an Open umbrella, an R&A Open scarf (ties for the men) and a copy of the Player’s Edition of the yardage for the Open. I thought I would probably need a degree in Maths to use this and immediately decided to use my Garmin as usual!
We were invited on to the patio for drinks where we were joined by several other Carnoustie Links and R&A Officials including Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of the R&A. Dinner followed and I was placed next to Bruce Mitchell, Captain of the R&A and we had the Claret Jug or, to give it it’s proper name, the Golf Champion Trophy, on a pedestal just behind us. Obviously, all the phones came out for photos of it !
Dinner was a three course meal and the wine flowed freely but I restricted myself to just two glasses! The conversation on our table was very animated and Bruce answered all our questions and queries easily. He is such an interesting man to talk to but a bit devilish as well. He suggested he took a photo of me kissing the Claret Jug! Well, an opportunity I just couldn’t resist !
Saturday morning was warm and sunny with not too much wind. After a hasty breakfast and a quick practise on the putting green as I was in the third group, it was off to the first tee. We were to play an aggregate stableford format in our qualifying pairs over the first four holes and the last five holes of the Championship course. Yes, the Barry burn came into play more than once!
I kept thinking, I am a 22 handicap, what am I doing here?
We were given our score cards and treated just like the Pros with tee pegs, water and bananas on the tee and then the moment we were announced. OK the stands weren’t full, well there were about 6 people, but it still felt very special and the adrenalin was flowing. My tee shot went straight and the ball had a good run as the fairways were quite dry, but not as dry as here at Ferndown. I was relieved once I had sunk the putt on the first hole and both my playing partners Neil from Chester and Johnny from Ireland felt the same! The green was pretty slick.
After we played the 3rd hole Sky wanted to talk to us individually. I made sure Ferndown got a mention when I was interviewed. I understand from Eddie Meggs that my interview was broadcast on TV, not that I saw it.
After the 4th hole we were taken by buggy to the 14th - the one with the spectacle bunkers and yes, they are a daunting sight! Luckily for me this hole was designated a par 5 for Ladies. By this time, I was really enjoying myself and felt quite relaxed.
On the par 3 16th I was chuffed to get on the green with my tee shot with Bruce Mitchell, the Captain of the R&A watching. The green beat me though and I three putted!
For me the 17th went exactly to plan, over the burn, over the burn and then on to the green in three. Shame about the three putts yet again !
Then the finishing hole with the stands in sight. Great tee shot over the burn and straight down the middle. The wind had got up so I clubbed down to lay up before the burn for my second shot. Again, straight down the middle but I couldn’t see the finish of it. I was later told that it had almost stopped but then hit a particularly hard spot and bounced on, yes you guessed it, into the burn!! Oh bother, or words to that effect! Anyway, I retrieved it and chipped on to the green and, just for a change, three putted and blobbed the hole. Oh well, at least I finished with the same ball I started with, had missed all the bunkers and scored 18 points.
Then came the next exciting bit. We were escorted up the stairs and over to the Recorder’s Office, the same as the Pro’s do, to check our score cards. It was all very formal until our cards were signed and handed over to the Recorder.
Once all the players had finished, prizegiving took place on the 18th green with Paul Lawrie and Bruce Mitchell presenting the prizes to the first three pairs. Unfortunately, Mo and I were not in the prizes but we had both had a great time. We were all given a framed poster showing that we were finalists in the 9 Hole R&A Championship. We then had a buffet lunch and it was time to leave Carnoustie but not before I got Dustin Johnson’s autograph as he checked into the Hotel!
Mo and I agree that we had a brilliant time and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It certainly has been the highlight of my Captain’s year – so far! I would urge you all to play in the qualifying competition on the Alliss course next year. The 2019 Championship is being held at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Ireland.
This Championship is only in its second year and was started to promote 9 hole golf. The R&A are very keen on this shorter form of the game for those who want to play golf but are time limited.