The Loop

Gloomy weather forecast at Troon calls to mind a brutal tournament there decades ago

July 11, 2016

TROON, Scotland -- Nothing is ever certain when it comes to Caledonian weather. Other than uncertainty of course. But given the gloomy weather forecast for Ayrshire over the next week or so, it is reasonably safe to assume that a combination of wind and precipitation is likely to have an impact on the 145th Open Championship. Which is nothing new. When Tom Weiskopf won the 1973 championship here, the four days of competition were marked by almost constant rain.

Still, even that inconvenience pales into near irrelevance when compared with the 1980 Youths Championship. Now sadly defunct, the event - run by the R&A and last played in 1994 when it was won by Sweden’s Freddie Jacobsen - that year was played in what can only be described as storm-like conditions. Even for Scotland, where, as the saying goes, “if there’s nae wind there’s nae golf,” this was extreme.

In the field that year was a young fellah by the name of Huggan. He had a bit more hair than he has now and he weighed maybe 25 pounds less. Neither of which helped in the hurricane that blew over at least the first two days.

How bad was it? Well, my scores of 85-85 tell at least part of the story. And my halves of 37-48, 38-47 reveal only too clearly the direction of the wind on this classic “out and back” links. If memory serves, I think only one player on my side of the draw made the halfway cut.

How strong was the wind? Here are a couple of examples to illustrate just how bad things got. Standing on the tee at the Postage Stamp on day one, I watched as the then Amateur champion, Welshman Duncan Evans, went from side to side, bunker to bunker en route to a quadruple-bogey 7. Thoroughly unnerved, I resolved to “lay up” on this 123-yard monster. Which I duly did. A wee punch down into the rough short and a little left of the narrow putting surface left me a simple enough pitch right up the green. I made a safe bogey and moved on.

Later, the “short” 17th hole proved to be well out of reach with a full-blooded drive, something the R&A apparently noticed. One day later, we were playing off what was, back then, known as the “ladies tee.” Didn’t matter. In wind even stronger than 24 hours earlier, I still couldn’t reach the green in one.

So that’s how extreme things can get at Troon. Hopefully, it won’t be quite as severe over the coming days. But I have to be honest. A little bit of me is hoping that it is.