Welcome back Valley golfers.
It seems like three times a year I celebrate “the most special week in golf.” The Master’s in April and The U.S. Open on Father’s Day are obviously two very special weeks for golfers. For me personally however, I have to say this week, British Open week, has to be my “most special golf week of the year.”
From a history standpoint, The British Open is truly the “granddaddy of them all.” First contested in 1860 (74 years before the first Masters), the list of British Open champions quite literally contains almost every great golfer from, well, ever.
And while I don’t know if it influenced future sports to come, the Open originally awarded its winner with the Champion’s Belt. Literally a red leather belt with a big silver buckle, the winner was to retain the belt for one year and then, as you see at The Masters with the green jacket, present the belt to the next year’s champion. The deal was however, if anyone were to win the championship three consecutive years, they would be given the Champion’s Belt permanently and a new trophy would be created.
As fate would have it, Young Tom Morris accomplished this feat in 1870, and when the Champion’s Belt was retired, a new trophy was created by Mackay Cunningham & Company. Inscribed “The Golf Champion Trophy,” the Claret Jug has been awarded to every British Open Champion since 1873.
Now let’s fast forward about 129 years from the creation of The Claret Jug to my first day of college (quite a jump, right?).
While unpacking in my dorm room at Fletcher Hall at Kent State, the captain of my new golf team happened to stop by to see how things were going. Having met only once before, this was really the first time I got to talk to my new teammate.
I was a little freshman and wasn’t really supposed to even make the traveling team. My captain was a senior, our team leader, and a preseason All-American.
I have no idea why or how, but somehow we ended up great friends. We traveled together. We roomed together. And as the youngest team member, I sometimes even ironed for him on the road as I was the most experienced at that.
My captain turned pro in 2000 and got his Tour card in 2003. After finishing tied for 13th at the Western Open, he received one of the last invitations to compete in the 2003 British Open. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ben Curtis shocked the golf world when he won the 2003 British Open. For as long as I live, I’ll never forget watching my friend win.
Sometime today, you’ll be able to watch Richard Dawson proclaim someone “The Champion Golfer of the Year” and hand him the Claret Jug. My friend’s name is on that trophy. I got to hold that trophy.
This is definitely my most special golf week of the year.
As always, thanks for reading, and until next week, “Hit ’em Straight.”