Shrimp on the barbie!

July 28, 2022

Two weeks ago, the British Open or as the Scots call it, The Open, saw some Sunday drama. Rory McElroy, the favorite, had the lead on the back nine, but couldn’t hold it as Australian golfer Cam Smith came from five shots back to win The Open and $2.5 million. Now that is a lot of shrimp on the barbie.

McElroy also suffered the fall to third place ($933,000), when Cam Young drained a 30-foot eagle putt to take second place money ($1,455,000).

What the Masters tournament is to beauty, the British Open is to golf in the 1800s. Augusta National Golf Course, home of the Masters, compared to St. Andrews, home of 30 out of 150 British Opens, is like looking at a dozen roses compared to brown grass in your lawn. If you are an avid golfer, you will see the beauty in both.

Since 1860, each British Open has all the old charm of the first one played at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland, when a group of rich golfers took up a collection among the membership to have an “elegant” trophy made for the first winner and golf champion of Scotland.

Now, if you guessed that the trophy was the famed Claret Jug (not to be confused with the Stanley Cup), you would be wrong. Are you ready? The first trophy was actually a large red leather belt with a silver buckle. It was called the Championship Challenge Belt and if you won it three years in a row, you could keep it.

This seems to go against all we know about the tough Scots, who wore kilts into battle and on the links. Kilts have no belt loops, so I suppose the belt was probably about the size of today’s World Wrestling Entertainment Championship Belt and was worn around Prestwick as a display piece, instead of holding up a kilt.

To add another twist to the first tournament, the British Open was actually closed to all amateurs. Unless you were a professional golfer, caddie, golf instructor, or gambler who made a living playing golf you were not permitted to take part. That all changed a year later, when the word “Open” allowed amateurs and professionals alike to enter and compete for the Championship Belt. 

In 1864, things got rolling with the addition of a six-pound cash award to accompany the red leather belt and to publicize the annual event, the membership voted to add the title “Championship Golfer of the World.”

It wasn’t until 1873 that the organizers of the Open Championship got tired of passing around a belt as the top prize and decided to take up another collection and have another unique trophy manufactured. They took their “wee purse” full of money to the Mackay Cunningham Company of Edinburgh and had them create a large cup, which was named the Championship Cup.

When the golfing public and professional golfers complained that the name was too bland for such a prestigious event and the “cup” actually resembled the cups used at the Prestwick to drink claret wine, the name was changed to the “Claret Jug” (no historical explanation as to how a cup turned into a jug, but add wine and Scottish whiskey to the discussion and viola, it turned into a jug).

With the new “jug” in hand, every golfer in Prestwick wanted to be the first winner of the new prize and be called the Championship Golfer of the World, but to their dismay, the first winner was Tom Kidd, a caddie from St. Andrews, who shot a 179 to take home the title.

So next year, when you watch the British Open played on a course with no trees, rough up to your knees, rolling berms, eight-foot deep bunkers and wind clocked at 25 mph on a calm day, remember that the “Open” is played for tradition not beauty!

19th Hole Trivia:

• The British Open is rotated between nine links courses in Scotland or England.

• 1951 was the only year the “Open” has been played in Ireland

• Tom Morris was the youngest winner (1868) at 17 years, 156 days

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