Christo who?

British Open 2023: Yep, he’s 6-foot-8. But amateur Christo Lamprecht has more to his story than being really tall

July 20, 2023

Oisin Keniry/R&A

HOYLAKE, ENGLAND — You're not going to read any story about Christo Lamprecht, the 22-year-old South African amateur whose first-round 66 propelled him to an early lead at the Open Championship, without a reference to his height, so let's get it out of the way: This man is tall.

How tall? Well, you can answer that question with a number—6 feet, 8 inches—but you could also say that his father, who stands 6-foot-4, is the short one at family reunions (a great-grandfather reached the seven-foot mark). You could say that when Lamprecht strides down the fairway on a cool morning at Royal Liverpool, all blue and beige, there is something a bit awe-inspiring about the tableau, a small revolt in the brain as your subconscious sounds the alarm. A figure that far in the distance should be smaller, right? You could say that his thin frame heightens (no pun intended) the effect, to the point that when the wind blows his shirt against his torso, the effect is almost concave, as though he's literally paper thin, a 2D figure in an animated Tim Burton feature. (Bad jokes come to mind: When he leaves a putt short, that's the only time there's meat on the bone.)


Oisin Keniry/R&A

So yes, the height is unmissable, and somewhat obscures a quality that might be even more impressive: strength. In the course making seven birdies Thursday offset by two bogeys, he routinely carried 320 yards off the tee, and told reporters afterward that he was holding something back.

"I can get it to like 340 carry but I don't want to," he said, without a hint of boastfulness. "Not in this weather. Not in links golf. It rolls far enough, so I kind of keep it in front of me."

(Another reporter asked about a brief interaction with Bryson DeChambeau, and Lamprecht joked that "he just wished he had my length, I guess.")

His swing isn't what you would call smooth—there are too many moving parts for that—but after the surprising stillness of the backswing, it takes on an impressive violence to impact. And over and over again during his first round at Royal Liverpool, the crowd surrounding the tees murmured their shock/delight at the spectacle. Yet finesse was every bit as responsible for the superlative score, with birdie putts of 13 and 25 feet, a 40-foot chip-in, and both long irons and wedges that left him near tap-ins for birdie.

"Hitting it far is not what I think golf is all about. I think links golf is a true test of golf and it's the way golf is supposed to be played," he said. "I think the way I played today I earned to be on the top of the leaderboard, as of now. It's not a cocky thing to say. I just personally think I believe in myself, and I guess stepping on to the first tee box if you're a professional or a competitor, you should be believing that you should be the best."

As it stands, with the caveat that there is so much golf left to play, Lamprecht is in position to pull off an astounding feat that hasn't been accomplished in 93 years—winning the British Amateur Championship, as Lamprecht did earlier this summer, and following it up with an Open Championship win. The last player to do so, of course, was Bobby Jones, and if you're a fan of historical synchronicity, he won the Open that year at Royal Liverpool.

Following his round, it was a classic get-to-know-you session with the gathered press, and beyond the genetic predisposition to towering height, we gathered a few key details:

• He came through Louis Oosthuizen's academy in South Africa, a beneficiary of the training and resources from the golfer he idolized growing up. Oosthuizen, playing in Lamprecht's group Thursday, praised his mentality and serenity on the course even more than his physical abilities. (As he left the mixed media zone, Oosthuizen conked his head with some velocity on a low doorway overhang, which made us all terrified for Lamprecht.) Aside from Oosthuizen, Lamprecht's favorite golfer growing up was Rory McIlroy.

Regardless of what happens this weekend, Lamprecht intends to finish his college career at Georgia Tech, where he's a two-time All-American. "I made a promise to our head coach I was going to stay four years, and I think you're only as valuable as your word," he said, leaving an impressive absence of wiggle room. His assistant coach, Devin Stanton, is carrying the bag for him this week.

After Lamprecht hit a snap hook off the first tee, it was Stanton who brought him back to the earth, telling him that he was an amateur at the Open Championship, and there was no need to stress. "We kind of had fun from there," Lamprecht said, and the fun started immediately with a scrambling par on that hole.

He wears a size 13 shoe, which is modest for a man of his stature, he played competitive tennis until his early teens and still loves pickleball, and after a promising junior career in golf, a massive growth spurt at age 15 resulted in the total breakdown of his game, along with the need for new clubs every six months or so. Not until he stopped growing did the skill return.

When he played with Tommy Morrison, a 6-foot-10 player at Texas, Morrison looked down on him and said, "hey big guy." Lamprecht's response: "Fair enough."

When told that his accent sounds almost American, he seemed almost resigned. "I've gotten a lot of trouble probably the last year and a half with all my friends back home in South Africa. Apparently I'm a full-blown American now, which I don't like," he said. "But yeah, it's bad. I don't know why it's changed. I can't change it back. I don't know what's happening."

Despite this, he's a picky eater and does not partake of Bojangles.

On paper, Lamprecht looks like your classic feel-good Thursday-at-a-major story, and part and parcel of that narrative is the certainty that he'll fade as the tournament goes along. Smart money is on the story following form, but as he ducked out of the press tent—ducking safely under the doorway, to general relief—there was a lingering feeling of a truly unique golfer who just had his coming-out party, and who, if he doesn't pull off a miracle this week, has some greatness up his sleeve for the future.

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Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.

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