Reminiscing what it used to be like at Open

Reminiscing what it used to be like at Open

I was trying to explain recently to a group of juniors how the professional game of golf has advanced over the years.

I mentioned my experiences of travelling to the 1971 British Open at Royal Birkdale.

I was a young assistant professional who just wanted to see the world's top players up close but ended up earning £20 for the week as a caddie.

I found a bed and breakfast and took a bus to the tournament venue every day.

No caddie was allowed in the clubhouse and I remember well my initiation on the range, whereby every player brought along their own balls to hit.

After emptying his bag, I was told by my employer to walk out to around 120 yards with the empty bag. It was like going over the top in the battle of the Somme during World War I.

About 30 players were practising at any given time and all aiming at their caddies.

Balls were whizzing everywhere and there was many a close call.

You were expected to follow the flight of your player's strikes, let the ball bounce once and then catch it.

I was hit once during the week much to the delight of the older caddies.

You slowly moved back further down the range as your player changed clubs until the driver came out.

Eventually you were waved back in, and it was off to the putting green.

All the balls had to be cleaned ready for the following day.

With these fond memories in mind, it's hard to resist a smile when I see the practice circus on the range at the ongoing British Open at St Andrews.

All have received the memo that black is the colour to wear and every player has an entourage around the size of the Liverpool team with them.

Gone are the ball bags which are replaced by new Titleist pyramids.

Out of Bounds: I wonder just why a player requires so many people around them. Are they all so insecure? There are physio, caddie, dietitian, nutritionist, masseur, manager, investment broker, financial advisor, personal secretary, swing coach, chipping coach, putting coach, launch monitor specialist, statistician, cameraman, schedule planner, psychiatrist and assistant psychiatrist in case the head psychiatrist needs help should the player shoot a 79.

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