As much as I love football and basketball, this time of year I am a true golf fan. This has been an exciting golf year with Jordan Spieth’s attempt to capture the third leg of the Grand Slam of golf (in the same year).
After winning The Masters and The US Open he traveled to St. Andrews, Scotland and the fabled Old Course to vie for a win in the British Open (or The Open).
Poor weather, lots of rain, wind and November type temperatures created problems, namely moving the final round to Monday.
Rain delays caused Tom Watson’s final hole at a British Open to be played in the near dark. A special moment for those who were still at the 18th and for those watching at home in the USA.
Many of us remember watching Watson lead in the final round..at age 59 (soon to be 60) in 2009 only to lose in a four hole playoff to Stewart Cink. I remember where I was, who I was with…. (Dave)…it was one of those moments.
Back to the final round played on Monday. I don’t think I could have dreamed better story lines…a better lineup of great players (and ones I really like and follow). Jordan Spieth going for the third major…Jason Day (after battling vertigo in the US Open)… Louis Oosthuizen, the defending Open champ (and a great guy according to niece Kelly Hawkins who works for the PGA-Trending on Tour)… and Marc Leishman, the story of his wife, Audrey’s, near death experience…Zach Johnson, who shot the lights out…one of the best wedge players out there… great stories, great drama…I loved them all.
The final round captured the world’s attention. Zach Johnson shoots 66, the first to post at 15 under- 273. Louis and Marc posted 15 under and a four hole playoff ensued. Zach Johnson won and many local Fernandina Beach/ Amelia Island folks were happy as his wife is from the area.
My play by play introduction is boring compared to many story lines coming from The Open. My favorite… a piece written by Loran Smith for The Athens Banner Herald, brings a little football and SEC passion into the mix.
Loran Smith: Cheers from the Dunvegan, one of the world’s best 19th holes
“St. ANDREWS, Scotland – Visitors at the Dunvegan Hotel Restaurant and Bar at the corner of Golf Place and Pilmour Place, which is also North Street, are welcomed here with open arms, which obviously is good for business, but Jack and Sheena Willoughby have more than business on their minds. They are the welcoming type, combining Southern hospitality with Scottish hospitality at one of the most famous pubs where the Open championship is played.
All week Jack and Sheena have been busy serving food and drink from early morning until the wee hours. They have been the proprietors at this heart-of-St.-Andrews location for 23 years. It is where golfers from the four corners of the earth enjoy 19th hole communion. It is also where any Texas Aggie can enjoy an alumni gathering with Jack who makes sure all visitors and guests know his campus preference. Maroon colors dominate. Behind the bar you can spot an A&M helmet signed by Head Coach Kevin Sumlin.
On the walls are photos of Open champions, sports luminaries and Aggie celebrities. There is one of the first President Bush and Sheena; also a photo of the Aggie mascot Reveille, movie stars Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery and astronaut Neil Armstrong. A signed photo from Tiger Woods, notes that the Dunvegan serves “the best fajitas.”
A successful bar must have, among other features, personality, staying power, good food and service, atmosphere and, of course location. The Dunvegan has all that, especially the last. The hotel and bar are anchored on the hottest corner in St. Andrews, perhaps the United Kingdom. The Dunvegan is the photo-op capital of golf—as much as the R&A Clubhouse and the bridge across Swilcan Burn. You come to St. Andrews, you must be seen at the Dunvegan.
The golf channel calls the Dunvegan, “one of the best hangouts in the world of golf,” and British professional Sam Torrence has said that it is “the perfect 19th hole.” It is unlikely that you will meet anyone who disagrees with Torrence.
Jack grins, “yes,” when asked if any Longhorn fans stop by when they are on golfing trips to St. Andrews. A manager for Gene Stallings when he matriculated at College Station, Jack was “overjoyed” when the Southeastern Conference invited A&M to become a member. “From the start, we have felt welcomed in the SEC. It is like family, and we feel we are part of the best conference in college football.” He returns home for “at least three games a year.”
Born in Liberty, Tex, Jack came here in 1977, working in the North Sea Oil fields. “It was quite common for Americans to follow their paychecks throughout the world while working in the oil industry,” he says. Based in Aberdeen, he began traveling to St. Andrews to play golf and began a relationship with Sheena about the same time.” They soon were married. One day after a round at the Old Course they noted the Dunvegan hotel, pretty much a drinking man’s hangout, was quite run down. “We had a vision about making it a true golfing destination or 19th hole,” Jack explains.
In addition to the bar and restaurant, there are eight sleeping rooms at the Dunvegan which, as you might expect, are already booked for the next time the championship returns to the Old Course, projected for 2021. The championship is contracted through 2018. Normally the Open comes to St. Andrews every five years, but with the 150th anniversary falling in the year 2021, it is easy to predict the decision of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club will make with its scheduling.
Doesn’t matter, the Dunvegan is already booked. If Jack and Sheena were to take on the task of advance reservations, they could book out the restaurant for meals for the week of 2021 before the wind quietens down at St. Andrews this weekend, a phenomenon which has ole timers trying to recall when the winds have been so angry. Even the hearty Scots have taken refuge from the wind. Like so many others, they have crowded into the Dunvegan for a few pints and single malts, served by Aggie aficionado’s Jack and Sheena Willoughby. Nobody is complaining about the wind at the Dunvegan. Cheers.”
Thank you to Loran Smith for bringing a bit of American college passion into the mix. Loran Smith is a legend in University of Georgia lore and the tailgating world. “Smith was Georgia’s first sideline announcer. He originated the ‘Tailgate Show’ and also originated the coaches locker room show. He was the executive producer of the ‘Vince Dooley Show’ for over 15 years. He is a freelance columnist and author, with a new book ready to hit the stores just in time for football season, the end of August.
Loran’s new book, “A Letter to Larry: and Other Memories of Georgia’s Legendary Play By Play Announcer.” Click here to preorder your copy.
Larry is Larry Munson, the beloved radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs.
I wish I had been at The Open…I would love to visit St. Andrews and have a pint at the Dunvegan. I would love to meet Jack and Sheena…I love having the Aggies in the SEC. I traveled to College Station for their first SEC game against the Florida Gators. I love the Aggie traditions…”HOWDY” to every newcomer, I even learned how to “Gig ’em Aggies”.
I love the band… the military precision…
I love the Yell Leaders…all in white….
I love Midnight Yell…and the kissing when the lights go out…I love The 12th Man…I love Reveille, the mascot…
I love all those hand motions that I do not understand…
Just love their spirit…there’s a spirit can ne-er be told.
Think I am ready for some football!!
Watch for upcoming stories from my travels.
Come celebrate with me. I’ll save you a seat at the table.