It’s a year late, but now it’s going ahead. The 149th Open starts tomorrow at the unearthly hour of 6.35am when three Englishmen – Richard Bland, Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage – will be on the first tee.
As ever, I will be hoping for a home win and it would be nice to see someone like Ian Poulter or Lee Westwood lift the Claret Jug for the first time. However, I Ithink one of the younger players, Tommy Fleetwood perhaps, has a bigger chance.
If it can’t be a Brit, I want to put down a marker and say that I think the American Xander Schauffele has a major win inside him. He has been ranked as high as No 4 in the world, so it is hardly the bravest of predictions.
Meanwhile, caddies at the Open course Royal St George’s Golf Club, have not only spent the past three years preparing for golf’s original major to return to Sandwich, they have also been fundraising for the Alzheimers ward at Victoria Hospital in Deal, by contributing £1 a for every bag carried into a special charity fund.
Sky Sport’s golf pundit, Nick Dougherty, joined the caddies a few days ago to be presented with a cheque for £8,000, which, after The Open, will be presented to the Victoria Hospital.
Deal Victoria Hospital is a small but much valued community hospital, offering urgent treatment services and in-patient care on the Elizabeth ward, with 26 beds.
Caddiemaster Sean Meleady says: “My wife works at the Deal Victoria Hospital as a case officer, and like every part of the NHS, the team there have done a fantastic job supporting the local community over the past 17 months.
“It’s great for the club and the caddie community at Royal St. George’s to be able to give something back, and we are grateful for Nick for giving up his time to accept the donation on their behalf, as the Covid arrangements made it difficult for them to be here this week.”Caddiemaster Sean Meleady
The R&A has provided 1,500 tickets to NHS workers in Kent tomorrow in recognition of their work during the pandemic and the support of The Open by the local health authorities. This has been kindly facilitated by NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group to reach NHS workers across the county.
Here’s looking towards a great four days of golf.
Still on a golfing theme, as the Open returns to Kent, one of the county’s most historic golf courses at Leeds Castle is celebrating 90 ‘diamond’ years. The castle is playing host to one of The Open’s main sponsors, who will be staying at the castle during the championship.
During the golden age, when Hollywood stars and the rich and famous of the 1930s were being entertained at Leeds Castle weekend house parties by the last private owner Lady Olive Baillie, a lesser known but equally significant chapter of the castle’s history was happening outside on the golf course.
In 1931, Lady Baillie agreed to the construction of the golf course, as she felt that a vast expanse of beautifully laid-out trees and mowed grass, leading to an expansive sheet of water, with the castle as the focal point in the middle, would create as idyllic a country scene as could “humanly be devised”.
No bunkers visible
Eminent golf course architects of the day, Sir Guy Campbell, Cecil Hutchinson and Stafford Hotchkin, were commissioned to design a course where “no bunkers would be visible from the castle”, which would not “interrupt the skyline with a flagpole on a green”.
The result was a unique nine-hole course considered by many at the time to be one of Britain’s finest, which remains open daily to players of all abilities. Since its completion, the course has hosted many of the world’s top professional golfers including the 1935 and 1937 US Ryder Cup teams.
One of the major sponsors of the Open will be in residence at the castle, entertaining its clients at a private house party to rival those of Lady Baillie in the glamorous 1930s.
Guests will have exclusive use of the 900-year-old castle bedrooms and will enjoy a week of golf on the historic course with the option of taking a lesson with one of the castle’s PGA professionals. During the evenings, when closed to visitors, the magnificent state rooms including the Library, Dining Room and Drawing Rooms will be used by the sponsor and its clients as a ‘home from home’.
If you are inspired by The Open and fancy a golf getaway, Leeds Castle has a fantastic value ‘Stay and Play’ package, which includes a luxurious stay in the beautiful Stable Courtyard Bedrooms, a full English breakfast and a round of golf on one of the most spectacular courses in the South of England. Prices start from £120 per room mid-week, based on two adults sharing. Take advantage of the new golf clubhouse and café during the day for hot lunches and refreshments and enjoy an evening meal at the award-winning ‘Castle View Restaurant’ with spectacular views of the castle lit at night.
For a longer golf staycation in the English countryside this year, choose to stay in one of the historic Leeds Castle Holiday Cottages. Catering for all group sizes, a varied choice of period cottages are available on the 500-acre estate, surrounded by wonderful woodland scenery. Each is within easy access of the golf course.
The opulent 14th-century Battel Hall manor house, is the perfect venue for hosting corporate clients looking to combine a luxurious golf break with business any time of the year. Battel Hall boasts comfortable drawing rooms, an oak-panelled dining room seating up to 14 people, five exquisite bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and additional annex accommodation. Doors from the library lead onto charming extensive gardens and floral borders, ideal for open-air drinks, high tea and croquet. Why not arrange to have a skilled chef on-hand to prepare your meals, allowing you more time to relax and enjoy your stay. If you would like further information on hiring the Castle or any of the mentioned accommodation options, please call the hospitality team on 01622 767823 or visit www.leeds-castle.com/hospitality. The Leeds Castle golf course is open daily, tee times can be pre-booked by calling 01622 767828. Visit www.leeds-castle.com/golf for green fees, opening times and information on memberships, lessons and coaching.