In anticipation of the landmark 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, we caught up with Galvin Green Tour ambassadors Jordan Smith, Alexander Björk and Laurie Canter to learn what makes The Home of Golf so special to them and what to expect in Scotland at this anniversary event.
Jordan Smith has enjoyed a stellar season since signing with Galvin Green in January, including five top-10 DP World Tour finishes. Winner of the 2017 Porsche European Open, Jordan will be playing in his second Open Championship when he sets foot on the first tee of the Old Course.
“St Andrews is so special because it’s where golf began,” said Jordan. “You can look back at the history of the course and all of the previous Open Champions and you have the greatest names in golf. To follow in their footsteps would be a dream come true.
SO MUCH CHARACTER
“I know everyone says this, but my favourite hole must be the 17th. With the tee shot over the hotel, the cavernous greenside bunker and the infamous road and stone wall dyke, it’s got so much character. You add to that the Jigger Inn on the right of the fairway and the 17th really has everything you could want in a golf hole,” Jordan comments about what is widely regarded as the hardest par-4 hole in golf.
He recounts watching Louis Oosthuizen win on the Old Course in 2010 as his first memory of the event. “I was really getting into my golf seriously that summer and it was the first Open I’d ever watched on TV. To win by seven strokes and play the way he did, it was so impressive.”
His favourite place outside of the golf course at St Andrews is the Jigger Inn. “You always catch all kinds of golfers and celebrities in there and the view over the 17th and 18th holes just can’t be beat,” said the Englishman now standing 13th in the DP World Tour rankings, having finished in 70th spot last year.
Weather conditions at St Andrews can be unpredictable, so Jordan is sure that his Galvin Green wardrobe will get maximum use. “The weather is always a bit of a lottery in Scotland, so it’s certainly going to be a week when base layers and waterproofs could play a big part. If the temperatures do rise though, the lightweight Galvin trousers and polo’s will be perfect.”
Sweden’s Alexander Björk will be playing in his fourth Open Championship, but his first at St Andrews - a place and golf course that he rates highly. “I love how golf is at the heart of the whole town. Whenever I go to St Andrews all I want to do is play golf, so I rarely leave the course or the hotel,” said Alexander, who finished T7 at the recent Dutch Open.
“The atmosphere is magical, and you can feel the history and significance of the sport everywhere you go there. The 18th hole is really beautiful. Walking over the Swilken Bridge is always a very special moment and to do it during The Open will be even better. The way the green is framed by beautiful old buildings also makes for a great finishing setting,” he added.
The winner of the 2018 Volvo China Open, Alexander remembers watching The Open on TV with his club team, because the Swedish club team tournament was always played during the same week. Now, he’s preparing for a tough challenge in more ways than one.
“The Scottish ‘summer’ can be very unpredictable, but luckily, I have the best rainwear there is. I'm really hoping I don’t have to use it, but if I do, I’ll be well prepared with waterproofs, base layers and sweaters,” said Alexander, who hails from Växjö where Galvin Green is based.
Laurie Canter’s first memory of The Open is the one won by Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007. “I went for the last day with my Dad and was completely caught up in the drama of the day and how exciting it all was,” said the Englishman, who recently joined the LIV Invitational Series.
HARD TO DESCRIBE
Apart from the history of the Old Course, what makes playing at the Home of Golf special for Laurie is its proximity to St Andrews. “It’s right in the middle of town, and the atmosphere - even in social and practise rounds - is hard to describe. I love the 12th hole. I think it’s a brilliant short par 4, whereby taking a risk off the tee can make the second shot significantly easier, especially in the prevailing wind.”
Wind plays a crucial part in links golf and Laurie is taking no chances with his preparations. “Being correctly prepared will be essential to playing well this week. I’ll have my Paclite ready to go, as well as a range of layers available, knowing if the weather turns, I’ll have the best in the business keeping me dry and insulated.”
When his rounds are over, Laurie enjoys eating at the Steak Barn on the outskirts of St Andrews. “The steaks are amazing there. Other than that, walking the dog on the beach is a great place to escape and switch off for a few hours,” he added.
- Johnny Percival