Well we arrived at Herne Bay on a sunny Sunday ready to begin our stint at The Open, our 7th Open Championship – ‘inside the ropes’.
Our flat near the front was perfect and had also not been at an extortionate price, unlike other places. To be fair to the good folk of Kent the record for extortion still lies with a caravan site in Turnberry that wanted £2,000 for 6 nights in a caravan.
We reported for our first duties, Margaret ‘stealing‘mobile phones and me on a job you can’t buy; driving the players from the clubhouse to the practice ground. Due to my previous experience I was appointed shift leader (be still my beating heart) with some delightful young students who were very keen.
There were very few players there on Sunday so we spent lot of time doing dry runs to get used to the role. A late arrival was Justin Leonard, a previous winner. The very strong European contingent was still either in Inverness or at home drying out. Such was the lack of numbers that we clocked off at 7 pm instead of 8 – after reassuring the team that their take home pay would remain at the 8 pm level.
The buggy run is actually a dedicated fenced-in run from clubhouse across two roads and behind the 18th green. The players are hidden away from view by a fence when they arrive at the practice ground. Our buggies scuttle along like ants in a run in a kind of cross between a scene from The Prisoner and the chocolate ride at Cadbury World.
We spent some time talking to the range manager Mike Collins great character now doing his 28th Open. I say talking, I probably mean listening to his wealth of stories.
Our grateful thanks must go to the gull that awoke us at 4.44. a.m. with his own version of the dawn chorus. Margaret was on duty at 6.45 am and I was to go and visit the nice people at Go Kart before my shift at 11 am. So I dropped her off and went to meet Sandy and Chris.
The atmosphere was very different when I arrived on duty on Sunday when it was like turning up at a party and finding you are the 1st here. Today on opening the door it was like finding the party in full swing.
And it just got better as more and more golfers arrived either from Inverness or the U.S.of A. As the pace picked up we altered our operation to make it more efficient for the players , and for us as well.
Just for the record, most of the players arriving from Inverness were full of praise for the course and sympathy for the organisers who had put in a lot of effort. Darren Clarke said that they had never had thunder and lightning in Inverness before, a slight exaggeration from personal experience, snow yes but not thunder!! The venue has a 1 year rolling contract to host the Scottish Open – we will be there next year after taking a break this year.
As Darren and I approached the construction crew’ road we were struck, almost literally, by the way that tractors etc just crossed without looking. What a great insurance claim that would have made.
At this stage of the week the players are putting in some serious practice but are very relaxed trying to pace themselves.
The range was busy all day and we were back and forth like demented ants – John Daley’s trouser a study in red, black and white diamonds and his golf bag in glow in the dark mode. As ever, he was polite and enjoyed a lively laughing conversation with his caddy Sorry no details….
A wee lighter moment when we ran Bob Torrance, Padraig’s coach, and his lovely wife June back to the clubhouse. We meet up with them every year at the Scottish Open and they are such a lovely couple to be with.
Simon Khan and his caddy were also in good form – we met Simon and his wife Lesley at Loch Lomond a couple of years ago. Lesley is a Scouser like us and we’d had a long chat with them. I am delighted to report that Simon now has a Scouse caddy as well.
Eventually, the names just roll into each other. Tom Watson was his usual charming self – particularly impressing the young lady on our team.
The names were getting bigger and bigger with Graeme McDowell appearing with Martin Kaymer. When Chubby Chandler arrived in a Range Rover we expected him to have Lee Westwood or Rory McIlroy with him, but no sign even by the time our shift finished at 4 pm.
We handed over our buggies over to the next shift and drifted away to return Tuesday at 6 a.m.
H.S.B.C. have taken over as the Bank sponsor from RSB. They have an impressive set up in the tented village including the opportunity to play with hickory shafted clubs on a driving bay. There is a craftsman on site working on hickory clubs – he even re-gripped the hickory shafted Gem putter I have been using for the past 6 years.
It was time to leave and get back to the gulls of Herne Bay.