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The 19th Hole

Banish ‘British’ from tourney nickname?

By Gene Bleile | Aug 14, 2014

I was recently reading our current copy of Colonial Williamsburg magazine when I happened upon an article with a sentence I found totally unbelievable: “September 18, 2014, for the first time in 307 years, four million Scottish voters are to decide whether to remain part of Great Britain or to become again an independent nation.”

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I guess I’ve been living under a rock or at best trying to make sense of the Ukrainian war, but whatever, I didn’t get the memo on a peaceful revolution in Braveheart’s backyard. Let’s stop for a moment and think about how this relates to the golf world.

Scotland is the home of golf.  Over the centuries, kings, queens and regular folk have made the game what it is today. The first Open Championship was played on October 18, 1760 at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. And 154 years later, the Open is still going strong (just ask Rory McIlroy, who won this past July and took home approximately $1.6 million dollars).

But what happens to the Open if the Scots vote to become an independent nation no longer under British rule? Over the years, the Open Championship has taken on the nickname British Open, even though the Scots started the concept, added the Challenge Belt, and later the Claret Jug as the top prizes. And every couple of years they also allow Britain to hold the tournament on English soil. So will that continue if voters take control of their nation?

Here is a scenario that could take place starting as soon as 2015. The new independent nation of Scotland takes back full control of their golf tournament. They ban the name British Open and rename it the Royal Scottish Open (even though there already is a Scottish Open), and doesn’t allow Britain to hold any future matches on English soil.

Wow, what a nightmare for the English. They will certainly need their famed “stiff upper lip” to get through the turmoil, but make no mistake about it; they won’t take this lying down.

In peaceful retaliation, the Brits will start their own British Open, including themselves and Northern Ireland as the “British” in British Open. They will only play on British soil and maybe use a Northern Ireland golf course every sixty-three years or so. (The only British Open played in Northern Ireland was at Royal Portrush Golf Club in 1951.)

So which tournament will have the prestige to be number one, as in years past; the new Royal Scottish Open or the new, but old, British Open? Will pro stars compete in both and if someone wins both tournaments, will they actually be the Open Champion?

I now have headache thinking about all those questions and before I go take a nap I will leave you with past highlights of what could be the last of the British Open Championship, as we know it.

19th Hole trivia

1868: Young Tom Morris scores the Open’s first hole in one.

1890:  John Ball Jr. becomes the first non-Scot (Englishman) and the first amateur to win the Claret Jug.

1896: Harry Vardon wins his first of six Open Championships over the next 20 years – a record that still stands today.

1922: Walter Hagen becomes the first American-born golfer to win The Open and Americans will win 10 out of the next 11 years.

1953: Ben Hogan plays in his only Open Championship in his career and wins the Claret Jug at Carnoustie Links.

1962: Arnold Palmer wins his second title with a total of 267 strokes.

1993 Greg Norman wins his second title with the same score as Palmer in 1962.

2003: Rookie Ben Curtis, ranked 396th in the world, wins The Open; beating out Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and others by shooting a one under par 283.

2014: Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy wins his first Open title before the September 18th vote for Scottish independence.

2017: On July 20-23 the next English based tournament is scheduled to be played at Royal Birkdale Golf Club located at Southport, England. We shall see!

By the way, after my nap, one last question:  If Scotland becomes an independent nation, will England change the name of New Scotland Yard to New England Yard?

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