I was speaking to a friend yesterday, a golfer and that rare being, a daily reader of a newspaper, the journal that used to be known as the thunderer. “Did you see that Ernie Els’s nephew won the Amateur Championship?” sez I. “No,” sez he. “Oh,” sez I. “It was up at Royal Aberdeen and Murcar.”
So, if there had been a mention of Jovan Rebula’s victory, it must have been in the small print because my mate doesn’t miss much golf, even though he’s more hooked on the cricket. I saw a bit of the 123rd Amateur on Sky early in the week when it was blowing a hooley and the commentator described winds that were gusting up to 40 mph as “a strong breeze”. He obviously came from Dad’s school of Beaufort assessment, refusing to categorise a hurricane as anything other than “a bit of a zephyr; hardly blowing at all”.
In the final, over 36 holes, Rebula, aged 20, defeated Tramore’s Robin Dawson by 3 and 2, to become the first South African to win the title since Bobby Cole way back in 1966, at Carnoustie. In that final (over 18 holes) Cole defeated Scotland and Duddingston’s RDBM (Ronnie) Shade, the man whose multiple initials and accuracy off the tee meant he was universally known as Right Down the Bloody Middle. Cole, who later married Laura Baugh, the glamour girl of American golf, with whom he had seven children, came within touching distance of completing a magical double when he finished third in the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 1975.
In that championship, Cole had two successive rounds of 66 but in the final round, when the wind blew a little, he had a 76, to finish alongside Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller on 280, one stroke behind Tom Watson and Jack Newton. In the play-off, Watson had a 71 to Newton’s 72, to win the first of his five Open titles.
So Rebula, who earned exemptions into the Open at Carnoustie next month, the Masters next year and the 2019 US Open at Pebble Beach (providing he remains an amateur), knows that his predecessors, whether related or not, have set the highest of standards. At least uncle Ernie, who’s won the Open twice, never held the Amateur trophy aloft.It’s the time of year when championships are coming thick and fast, everywhere you look. This week, to mention just a few of the big ones, it’s the Ladies’ British Open Amateur at Hillside, the lovely links adjoining Royal Birkdale; there’s the third women’s major of the season, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Kemper Lakes, near Chicago; and the old codgers, sorry, the ever-competitive members of the flourishing pension fund that is the Champions Tour, are competing in the US Senior Open at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. That’s where Annika Sorenstam won her first US Women’s Open, way back in 1995, the start of a long and illustrious career. It was her first win on the LPGA Tour, although she’d won the Australian Open, her first victory as a professional, at the end of 1994.
I was there at The Broadmoor and beautiful though the place is, I’m not sure I’ve been going to the gym long enough to cope with the heat they seem to be having this week. I’m having enough trouble with our heat here at sea level, let alone in the thinner air of Colorado, about 6000 feet up if I remember rightly. On Tuesday we had our Ladies Open Team Alliance at Whittington Heath, which was at its dry, fast-running, bouncy, unpredictable summer best. Operating on the famous Pammy Principle (named after the inimitable golfing guru and motivator Pamela Saunders) that when there are two scores from four to count you need to average five points a hole to be in with a chance, we were doing ok with 44 points after nine holes.Trouble was when we stopped for a cuppa at the halfway house, we realised we were ready to go in! Phew what a scorcher! Anyway, I doused my hat with water, my teammates topped up the water bottles, rooted out the bananas and on we went. Five points at the 10th, same at the 11th, then the wheels came off and we limped home with 31 points, well off the pace, knackered.
The winners had 85 points and although one of their number was a young thing, two of them were in their 80s, totalling 164 years between them. All hail to Margaret Hogarth, Ivy Smith, Jayne Fletcher and Helen Robson. They’re obviously made of stern stuff and adhere to the Gary Player Dictum that age is only a number – though one of my recent birthday cards had a bit of a bitter take on that supposedly optimistic, life-embracing saying……
Congratulations are also in order to WHGC’s peripatetic Sue Spencer, who is doing that good wine thing of getting better as she gets older. She finished 4th, six shots behind the champ Helen Lane of Scraptoft, in the English Senior Women’s Open Amateur Stroke Play at Belton Park GC in Lincolnshire. I’d have a pic of Spenny here but I forgot to ask Tim, her husband, caddy and official photographer, for a decent snap, so it’s a great excuse to use what I think must be the pinnacle of a presentation pic, loud, proud, even, dare I say, a trifle garish. There’s certainly nothing wishy-washy about it and it also gives us time to practise a name that we might be coming across a few times over the next few years: Kanyalak Preedasuttijit.
She’s the young Thai who won the Ladies European Thailand Championship at Phoenix Gold Golf and Country Club in Pattaya last Sunday. As well as the splendid trophy she earned 45,000 Euro and, even better, an exemption into the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes and the Evian Championship at Evian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva.Finally, a quick note to say that the featured picture at the top of the piece is just to introduce Alice, who is 10 weeks old and has come to live in Lichfield, where she’ll soon be joining the dogs and their walkers in Beacon Park. I had the tricky job of looking after her on Wednesday as she settled in and got used to her new surroundings…..Tough gig, as you can see.