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Mark Huber at the British Senior Open
A trip across the atlantic for the prestigious event
Posted Aug 06, 2012 by Mark's Kaddy Korner
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Sometimes the best laid plans go astray but it all works out in the long run. Bob said I didn't have to go, but it is The Open at Turnberry, the Scottish Pebble Beach, I couldn't pass by a week on the bonnie links of Turnberry. A decent flight appeared Senior U.S. Open week, I jumped on it and flew out of Bloomington, IL Sunday afternoon thru Minneapolis, Amsterdam then landing in Glasgow Monday early afternoon. If your man is playing you have to go, the time you don't show he plays well or someone steals your bag.
My brother didn't go with Lee Janzen in the early 90's and Dave Musgrove, Sandy Lyle's old caddy, slid into the saddle. Sis's wedding weekend I missed a tourney with Murph and offered to line up a caddy. His response, "I'll take care of it, you'll fix me up with a crappy caddy so you look good." His old buddy, Ron Defrees, a corporate CEO, handled the chores and confessed, "30 seconds isn't long enough to disseminate all the misinformation I have for you. This job isn't as easy as it looks, get me back to the boardroom!"
Even though my travel plans were late I had everything situated when I landed. A $180 Alamo rental car, a 120 pound weekly rate at a dairy farm outside Ayr and 30 minute drive through the lovely Scottish countryside before and after work each day. Alamo wouldn't accept my temporary driver's license issued by the Janesville, WI DMV and guaranteed to be valid overseas. I was without a car, no access to my B&B, out the $180 and my argument was falling on deaf Scottish ears. Luckily, Dave Senko, Champions Tour media director, was renting a car next to me and just pulling out of the parking lot when I scrambled across the four lanes of opposite traffic.
Dave had never driven on the left side, the passenger seat was foreign to me, but we made it out of Glasgow and through the rolling hills, burghs and castle ruins however our two left hubcaps didn't. Dave cut a little heather, nicked a couple curbs and played chicken with more than one semi. I was a bit flustered when he dropped me off in front of the Turnberry clubhouse, luggage tow. Caddies were huddled like penguins sheltered from the 30 m.p.h. winds, biting rain and 45 degree hovering over the bonnie links of Turnberry. I shared my predicament, waited for Bob to show and before walking the course the boys had line on new "digs". Steve "Liar Steve" O'Hare, Mark Mouland's caddy, supposedly was working on a last minute deal, I kept my toes crossed while struggling around Turnberry without a yardage book.
The first walk around a links course is only to get your bearings off the tees. Your line of sight changes daily with the wind, like our northern Wisconsin breezes, the Firth commands them to blow much like Lake Superior. Scotland and Wisconsin are much alike, maybe that's my love of both. The stroll was spectacular despite the weather, I was pleasantly worn out after the long travel day and my land legs were back. And best news, Steve had come through with the condo and cold Tenants in the fridge. Chips, cheese, 2 cold ones and bed before dark was heaven. Bob was a block away with Fred Funk and son Taylor, Larry Mize and caddy Tim Mork, resting peacefully before an early start Tuesday. All was working out, hanging out next to Turnberry was going to be magical.
The first walk to the course was misty, calm and eerie. I hadn't noticed the big rock "Alicia Craig" implanted off the coast the day before. The Turnberry lighthouse, hotel and Alicia Craig guard the golf course probably working their way into every picture taken. Strolling down the hill every day was magical. My shorts, flip-flops and coffee mug caught eyes everywhere and I made a point to leave early so I could chat with the "bobbies", caddie master, locker room attendants, volunteers and director of golf, Chris Card, whoever wanted a conversation. Friendly doesn't do any of them justice, their love of golf and Turnberry was contagious, I could spend weeks hanging out here. On the practice range Tuesday morning Chris, a Carolina native, filled me in on local lore and recommended a book, The Bonnie Links of Turnberry written by a member. The member discount and possibility of meeting the author was all I needed.
Turnberry was a strategic air force base during both World Wars, the three runways are still present, Culzean Castle down the road housed Eisenhower's suite and Turnberry was his playground. He'd send the sorties off in the morning, play a couple rounds of golf then get the reports in the afternoon. The 5 star hotel was converted into a hospital and housed the fighter pilots during war time. A walk around the grounds creates chills and the second floor clubhouse rotunda displays spectacular pictures of Turnberry's championship golf history, war efforts and early years. My lunchtime walk Tuesday afternoon was not enough, the book will be treasured forever.
Without transportation I spent most evenings surveying the course, actually walked the it three separate times, or filled up my mug with fortified orange juice and found the Turnberry farm, cottages and hotel quite enjoyable. I didn't make it to an actual Scottish pub until Saturday afternoon, the Turnberry hotel sports pub, "The Dual In the Sun", named after Watson-Nicklaus famed 1977 Open battle, was a bit out of my league but an adequate watering hole every afternoon. Mark Wiebe enticed me with Guinness each afternoon and I stood there with Curtis Strange, "Calc" and wife Brenda, Andy North, Tommy Armour and brother Sandy watching World Match Play dart competition arguing the finer points of darts which none of us new much about. A bar game is a national sport in the U.K., you gotta love a country like that.
Bob wasn't on his "A" game this week and hasn't been for awhile, one of the reasons I was hesitant about coming over. Two weeks at the cabin was mighty enticing but "ya gotta do, what ya gotta do" so we struggled through practice rounds and the first two rounds. His attitude was borderline awful, his knee was aching, his eyes kept watering and the ball was blurry while standing over it, things were not looking good for our side. Our tee times were excellent for the first time in awhile at a major but we had no clue who we were playing with. Practice rounds were played in balmy weather, 60-65 degrees and light breezes, shorts all day long with sunny skies, unbelievable for the western Scottish coast. Thursday the Scottish winds were howling and the intermittent gales produced biting rain you could see and hear rolling off the Firth of Clyde.
You don't play in this weather, you merely survive and that we did. We shot 72 Thursday afternoon, felt good about the score and settled in early. Bob left an open invitation for dinner with his crew every night at Wilding's, a couple miles down the road and Tom Watson's favorite restaurant in the Ayrshire region. I passed, the white linen table clothes and too many forks were a bit intimidating for me. A couple Guinness and home-cooking at the condo was perfect every night. Steve wasn't quite sure about my kitchen skills, we were like Oscar and Felix of the Odd Couple. Guess who I was portraying?
Teeing off at 7:40 we got a bit of a weather break, no we got a big break and took advantage of it the first twelve holes. We were a couple over par coming off 13 tee and feeling real good about our score until we saw Gary Hallberg posting 6 or 7 under a couple groups in front of us. It's a strange game, Gary was 5 over through 12 holes the day before, now leading the tournament after two days. We found bogies on 13, 14, 15, 16, holed a 60 yard wedge shot for eagle on the par 5 17th then the "Golfing Gods" punished me on 18. After Bob holed the shot I by-passed the green, no etiquette at all, and walked to 18 tee bragging to a marshal we were going to grab a couple Guinness this afternoon and laugh at the boys struggle in the wind.
As Bob walked to the tee a pelting rain raced sideways across 18, we decided on three wood down the right side, the "Gods" had other ideas. The three wood was struck well but the Titleist reacted indifferently finding a resting spot in the first trap guarding the left side of the fairway. The bladed sand wedge caught the steep face, our second shot from the sand was decent and the fourth shot rolled over the back edge. Two putts for a smooth double left us at +5, I thought, well within the cut line. Our scoreboard was wrong and I had lost track of one bogey during the round. When Bob stormed out of the scoring tent I tried to appease him. "Don't worry, five's a lock for tomorrow" I blurted softly. He strained, "We're not a 5, we're at %#&(@$* six. Put'em up we're done." Empty feelings are hard to deal with so I wondered around seeking solace from anyone who would listen. Most guys thought six was a lock, I wasn't sure.
After a leftover pork chop lunch, two Tenants, a quick shower I filled up my mug and headed for the clubhouse. Sitting outside sipping on my concoction I checked scores on my phone. When we left the scoring tent we were tied for 104th, about two hours later we were tied for 73rd and the cut was heading higher. I took bigger swigs from the mug and headed for the practice tee. Bob was nowhere in sight, Loren Robert's caddy Van told me he heard him packing next door thinking he was on flight home. A marshal stopped me, "hey, you Gilder's caddy?" He proceeded to tell me about our tee ball on 18. The ball actually stopped about ten yards short of the pot bunker, teetered on a slope, then a gust of wind carried it the rest of the way. I'll never test the "Golfing Gods" again, especially close to the birthplace of golf where they are much stronger.
Walking home safely under the cut line the pelting rain forced me into the hotel and the sun room overlooking the course. I was out of my league but enjoyed the warmth watching golf on the "telly" when Gary Hallberg walked in. He forced a lager into my hand and we talked about his round. "Probably the best ever. I was seeing tracers in the sky when visualizing my shot," he said. His caddy mentioned it could have better, they missed four putts inside 8-10 feet. I told him not to test the "Gods" over here. They shot a few over Saturday but finished second behind "Boom-Boom" Sunday.
There's nothing like playing on the weekend when you thought you were down the road. Old buddie, Tim Thelan and his wife L.A. were playing right behind us and we made plans for beers after the round. We fired a couple over, the plans didn't work, probably for the better because Tim can lead a person astray occasionally and I needed a good night sleep. Sandy, Kite's caddy, drove a couple of us into Girvan and we shared a few pints with the locals and other caddies at the Queen's Hotel, the Turnberry caddy hotel. Bob, Kite and Thelan extended dinner invitations but I fixed up a kitchen sink casserole and retired early.
The cut went to +8 so our weekend times were rather comfortable. Sunday we were paired with Rod Spittle, top five nice guys on tour, and looking forward to doing some damage. Every playing partner we had used a local Scottish caddy, all great guys but a bit hard to understand their brogue in the heavy winds. I kept to myself and concentrated on caddying. The putting had been poor for awhile so Thursday afternoon Bob poured out three buckets of range balls on the practice green and pounded out the rough edges. Friday afternoon he steamed at the house and Saturday we went through three buckets on the range with a little guidance from Curtis Strange. Sunday it all came together, we had fun.
We bogied the first after a bad break and walking off the second I told Bob, "Watson doubled the first yesterday then made 6 birdies, we've got him by one already." He laughed then played the best round of the year firing a 67, passing about 25 players and finishing 23rd for the week. We left our final putt on the edge for 66 but were very happy coming off the green. Jack Boyd, the local author was waiting, signed my book and we chatted briefly in the lobby. I wish I'd have caught him earlier, we could have talked forever over pints. Packing up in the locker room, they let us in over here, Bob asked if everything was out of the bag and said, "I know where my passport is this year." Last year at Walton Heath it was MIA and he scrambled Sunday evening but finally found it.
My mouth dropped, while packing before coming to the course I didn't remember seeing my passport. I hurried back to the condo rifled through my luggage, no passport. A quick search about the condo, no passport. A quick shower, I couldn't drink a beer I was distraught, then headed for the course. It must be in Dave Senko's car, a lengthy search, no passport. My ride with the Thelan's was leaving at 5:00, no passport at 4:30. Tim said I'd be lucky to be out of Scotland by Wednesday. The locker room guys did everything they could to help and finally printed up directions to the Edinburgh consulate and the steps for a lost passport. I had no passport, no driver's licence, no I.D. and I was flying out in 13 hours.
The courtesy car dropped my off for one more search while they went back to pickup Steve, who told me to search my "Oscar" room, it must be hiding in that mess. The large closet had huge double sliding doors and the passport was caught among the hinges along the floor. It was there is all that mattered, not sure how it got there but it was there. I clutched it all the way to Glasgow, celebrated with Tim, L.A and their friends from the Netherlands checking with them about every half hour if I still had my passport.
We were finishing of the last Guinness about 11:30 when the hotel fire alarm sounded. We were hustled from the bar immediately and stood in the cold for about an hour. Our drinks were still there, we finished them quickly and headed for two hours sleep before airport wake-up call.
Standing in line the next morning waiting for the agent, Couples snuck up behind me. First thing out of his mouth, "Hey, you find your passport?" He was more interested in my story than talking about his win.
What a week, heading for Minneapolis, I hope.