The sister was with us last weekend in Cheshire. She was en route home from her epic public transport journey from Lichfield to Dornoch to Ireland, north and south, and was pausing with us before completing the circle.
We were stationed in front of the telly watching the lengthy play-off for the Made in Himmerland title in Denmark between Spaniard Nacho Elvira and home hero Rasmus Hojgaard. We had no particular favourite for the trophy but acknowledged how fabulous it would be for Rasmus and the partisan galleries if the Dane could manage to pull it off. Elvira had ascended the 18th tee in the final round with a one-shot lead but was relieved to hole a nasty little one for bogey to fall back into a play-off with Rasmus, who’d shot 64 and been finished for ages.
The 18th was a bit of a brute of a hole with a very testing tee shot, trouble lurking everywhere. The pair shared pars on five occasions before Elvira finally came unstuck on the sixth time of asking and the title was won by a Dane for the first time in its history.Cue delirious, joyous celebrations reminiscent of Shane Lowry winning the Irish Open back in 2009 when still an amateur. One difference – the sun was shining in Denmark.
The sun was also shining way back in 1988 when I played in Denmark for the first time at a lovely course called Rungsted. I’ve a feeling it was the first time the Ladies’ European Tour had visited Denmark and our collective breath was taken away by 19-year old Belgian Florence Descampe, who was making her professional debut. She swept all and sundry aside with power, grace and accuracy, leaving a trio of US Open champions (Laura Davies, Ali Nicholas and Lotte Neumann) in her wake. I suspect she won before she realised just how difficult it was.
My parents had travelled to the tournament with Patricia, who was there in a working capacity, and all three were going to mosey along together the following week to the next tournament in Sweden. That gave the four of us the opportunity to share an unforgettable experience on the Sunday evening the tournament ended. The golf was played a few miles down the road from Elsinore castle, the ghostly setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Dad’s favourite play, and amazingly that evening there was an open-air production of the classic set in the grounds of Elsinore castle.
We were treated to a wonderful performance by a very young Kenneth Branagh and it really was unforgettable to watch the opening scene unfold with the ghost of Hamlet’s father appearing on the ramparts of the actual Elsinore castle – just where the Bard had set the scene. It was a special evening and we knew it at the time. It’s still special 35 years later.
The lengthy play-off on the DP World Tour prompted another discussion. What was the longest play-off I’d ever been involved in and what was the result? Well, my first win on the US college circuit was at the Temple Junior College tournament in Texas a million years ago where I won on the eighth extra hole.
I was having trouble with my contact lenses that week and had to play in glasses, which I never, ever did. Just before the play-off I dropped my glasses in the car park under the wheel of the university van just as our coach, Pat Park, was reversing into the parking space. There was only time for a lightning, running repair before I’d to go to the tee. This consisted of one third of one lens being bound with elastoplast to hold the frame together in one piece, obviously massively inhibiting my vision (left eye). I managed to win on the eighth extra hole. We didn’t keep playing the same hole over and over as the boys did last Sunday – we started at the 1st and just kept going.
In my weekly letter home – remember, no emails, no texts and no facetime in those days – I wrote on the back of the envelope “good news inside”. Not long before her death Mum gave me a little bag and when I looked inside there were all those airmail letters I had written home from the States. She and Dad had kept them all. Granted there were a few shopping lists on the back of some of the envelopes and instructions to Dad to put the dinner in the oven at such and such a time. I have the letters, and the bag, still.
So, now my eyes, along with the eyes of most of the golf world, are turning towards the Open and Royal Liverpool golf club aka Hoylake. I’ve already spent a wonderful day in the company of local member and former Curtis Cup player Maureen Richmond (née Walker) going round the course. Picking her brains was a joy and if I have a good week broadcasting it’ll be in no small measure thanks to her.
The course is in magnificent order and with frisky breezes forecast to test the players it would be prudent to clear the diaries of all engagements. I promise it’ll be compulsive viewing.
I have a busy week ahead so will be unlikely to check in with you next Friday – Patricia can hold the fort. After that I’ll certainly be back to tell you about the week and lots of behind-the-scenes stuff.
Enjoy the Open.