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  • Alistair Tait

Open Glory, Not Filthy Lucre

There wasn’t much talk of the current state/mess of men’s professional golf in Open Championship Final Qualifying at Hollinwell (Notts Golf Club) this week. No talk of astronomical prize funds or which players have been branded traitors for jumping to the Saudi-backed LIV Tour. Just 76 players dreaming of playing in the game’s greatest championship.

I got the feeling the vast majority didn’t care if there was any prize money in the 150th Open at St Andrews this month. Most would probably play in The Open, especially this year’s, for nothing. England’s Marco Penge (first on the left above) perhaps put it best when he said:

“I’ve always dreamt of playing in the Open, and to play my first at St Andrews is just awesome. Hopefully there will be more in the future but I can say I’ve played in a major, in The Open at St Andrews.”

Welshman Oliver Farr (third from the left) can relate. He’s set to follow in his father’s footsteps by playing an Open on the grandest stage of them all.

“I haven’t played in Open Qualifying for a while, but I wanted to play in the 150th one at St Andrews. My dad caddied for me today and he’s played in two Opens, including 1990 at the Old Course,” Farr said. “Apparently I was there but I was only two so I don’t remember it.”

He'll certainly remember this year.

Dad Graham, the club professional at Worcester Golf & Country Club, also played in the 1993 championship at Royal St George’s.

“He was 2-0 ahead but it’s 2-1 now, but it’s a dream come true for both of us to qualify for it together, especially it being my first. He’s my dad, my golf coach and sometimes my caddie so for us to take this journey together today is special.”

Oliver’s chances of qualifying hung in the balance as he played the 18th hole. Comfortably sitting on 2-under and well inside the qualifying mark, he knew a par would get him to St Andrews. Farr then thinned a greenside bunker shot 30 yards back down the fairway. His pitch came up 12 feet short, but the English-born Welshman holed the clutch putt for maybe the best bogey of his life.

Farr might be one Open behind Graham when the dust settles on the 150th Championship, but he can do something the elder Farr never managed: make the cut. Graham Farr failed to play 72 holes on both appearances.

Twenty-one-year-old Barclay Brown (last on the right) was the sole amateur to get one of the four Hollinwell spots, and one just two from the 16 players to come through Final Qualifying along with fellow Englishman Sam Bairstow.

“I played the Old course when I was about 10 years old with my mum and dad but I’ve never played a competitive round there, so to think my first will be in The Open is pretty cool,” said Brown, who plays college golf at Stanford University.
“I’ve been to a few Opens as a spectator, and my first was at St Andrews in 2010 with my parents. I can’t remember too much about it, but I’m sure I’ll remember this year’s championship.”

Richard Mansell (second from the left) knows what it’s like to play in the game’s oldest major after making his debut 12 months ago.

“It was unbelievable playing at Royal St George’s last year," said Mansell, who finished joint 74th. "It was just a dream come true for me because I grew up watching The Open. Just walking over that player bridge to the first tee gave me goosebumps. So I can’t believe what the atmosphere is going to be like at St Andrews.
“It's what you dream of growing up, what you work so hard for.”

So true. How many of the above quartet, of the other 68 Hollinwell hopefuls, stood on putting greens as kids thinking this putt is so I can add more money to my already bulging bank account? None of them. They stood over those four footers imagining it was to win the Open Championship.

They might just get that chance at St Andrews. They’d probably pay a lot of money just to be in the field. There are times when glory, memories, dreams mean more than greenbacks and filthy lucre.

Oh, if only that were true of all professional golf tournaments.

#JustSaying: “The Open is the tournament I would come to if I had to leave a month before and swim over.” Lee Trevino

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