Reminiscing about Tom Watson & the 2009 Turnberry Open…

Tom Watson teeing off in front of the Lighthouse at Turnberry.

Tom Watson teeing off in front of the Lighthouse at Turnberry.

WOW, I can't believe it has been five years since I went 'across the pond' to spot the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry for ESPN/ABC. What a week that was seeing an Open, the links golf course at Turnberry and Stewart Cink beat the indomitable Tom Watson, at age 59, in a four-hole playoff. All for less than $US 1,000 and that included an $US 800 airfare. There truly is nothing like experiencing an Open in person though it was very exciting to see Rory McIlroy win at Royal Liverpool on television this year. Where have the years gone- Louis Oosthuizen at St. Andrews in 2010, Darren Clarke at Royal St. George's in 2011, Ernie Els at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2012, and Phil Mickelson at Muirfield last year.  You do see much better watching on television but definitely go once when you get the chance. Hard to believe it sounds like it will be Tom Watson's final Open farewell at St. Andrews in the 2015 Open. I could not help but sense that a new era arrived with Rory winning a third major and youngsters like Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia coming in second. I know Sergio is not that young but he is not that old either. Maybe it will be Rory that breaks Jack or Tiger's record?
In the grandest of sporting gestures, Tom Watson raising the flagstick on No. 15 to enable Steve Marino to know the location of the hole.

In the grandest of sporting gestures, Tom Watson raising the flagstick on No. 15 to enable Steve Marino to know the location of the hole.

Everyone remembers the 2009 Open for Tom Watson's valiant drive to win golf's oldest championship at age 59. I remember it for something Watson did on the 15th green on Saturday. Watson's playing partner was Steve Marino and he hit a shot wide right on the difficult par-3 15th hole. Marino was having a difficult day and now his ball was lost down in a gulley. Not only did Tom Watson go down the hill to help find the ball, once it was found, having sense of mind, respect and compassion for his playing partner he went up the hill and removed the flagstick and raised it over his head so Marino would know where the hole was. I think this speaks the world of Tom Watson, not only the golfing world. What a great guy! To do this while trying to literally make history by winning the Open at age 59 really made an impression on me. Not that he needed to because I am a big Tom Watson fan. It was vintage Tom Watson for sure!
That's me in the background watching Tom Watson tee off on the 17th in the playoff with Stewart Cink. Photo Credit: The Golf Channel.

That's me in the background watching Tom Watson tee off on the 17th in the playoff with Stewart Cink. Photo Credit: The Golf Channel.

I think Tom Watson just ran out of gas in the playoff with Stewart Cink. Why the golf gods and Bruce Edwards up above did not stop that ball on the green on the 18th in regulation I will never know. My routine for the week was to head to the 15th grandstand after my 'work' spotting for ESPN/ABC was complete. I would watch the last four or five groups play the 15th and then walk in with the final group. It was an exciting playoff and not over until Watson's drive on the third playoff hole (the par-5 17th) was found in nasty rough.Watson's up-and-down on the par-3 sixth hole was a miracle. All the credit goes to Cink for playing the four playoff holes 1-under par. Well played Stewart Cink, indeed he was 'the Champion Golfer of the Year' in 2009!  
'Need Place to Stay, Will Pay' sign did the trick. Or was it my friendly smile?

'Need Place to Stay, Will Pay' sign did the trick. Or was it my friendly smile?

I also remember the 2009 Open for the sheer travel adventure that it was for me! I arrive in Glasgow on Sunday morning from New York's JFK via Amsterdam without a place to stay. After a bus to City Centre and a bacon roll at the train station, I boarded a train to Ayr. The train took me past Troon and Prestwick with golf courses in full view. In Ayr I hopped a bus to Turnberry and was on the Ailsa Course by 1:30 pm. After an afternoon of rollicking amongst the hillocks and dales of the links course meeting people and enjoying the view I headed for the bus stop in front of the clubhouse. The sign I held said it quite plainly- "Need Place to Stay, Will Pay." A young man named Stuart came to my rescue and we took the bus back to his place in Ayr. Not only did I have a bed to sleep in but the five pound fee included a walking tour of the city. As important I met Colin in the pro shop whose mother was letting out rooms for the week with one still vacant. As it turned out, after intense negotiations to meet my budget, Maybole would be my home for the week. Though I would walk to the nearby bus stop early each morning to catch the bus to Turnberry, many times someone would stop and offer me a ride without fare. Likewise, rides would appear on the way home too. All I can say is I was adopted by many loving people while living my dream that week in Maybole and Turnberry. I am happy for Stewart Cink achieving his dream of winning a Major but will always remember the 2009 Turnberry Open for what if Tom Watson won it at age 59. Who knows what will happen at St. Andrews in Watson's last Open in 2o15... I have countless pictures from my week at Turnberry. Okay I counted them and there are 1,384 (actually Microsoft File Explorer counted them for me). I split it up into two picture galleries- the first one being the trip and the people I met along the way (71 pics) and the second one being the competitive golf (76 pics). Both tell stories in the captions. I wish I had a way to contact every person I met to say thank you again for a wonderful Open experience of a lifetime! The trip and the people I met: The competitive golf: