The Saturday turnout at Royal St. George’s proves that virtually nothing can keep British fans from the Open Championship. They are just mad about their golf.
Despite the wind blowing steadily at 20 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts up to 35 mph, and the rain pelting down, thousands of people braved the weather (and possibly caught pneumonia).
Most had dressed appropriately, or at least tried, but rain jackets can only take so much. Most were drenched, but they still managed to clap for good shots while huddled under umbrellas.
Barry Skinner left his home in Lincolnshire at 4 a.m. and traveled roughly 200 miles to Sandwich for the Open. He arrived at 9 a.m., but at around 2:30 he was headed for the exit.
“We knew the weather would be bad, but we came, anyway,” said a glum-looking Skinner while trying to fix his umbrella, which had blown inside out. “Saturday was the only day we could make it. It was worth it, but it’s just too wet now.
“The most miserable part is having to leave.”
Too bad Skinner couldn’t have lasted another hour, as the weather started to clear around 3:45. Shelter from the storm Steve Sanders from nearby Deal was making a dash for the exit around the same time. He had brought his son Damon and Damon’s friend Joe, both 12, but had to take the drenched kids home early.
“It’s too much for these two; they are a bit cold,” said Sanders.
But at least they watched Tom Watson for a few holes and saw Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson tee off.
Richard and Jennifer Madaris of Charlotte, N.C., who came over just to watch the Open, also exited early. The drenched Americans hadn’t properly packed for the weather.
“It was fun but blustery,” said Richard, who had forgotten his rain suit. “We watched Tom Watson a fair amount. And we got a feel for it. We’re heading back tomorrow a little better prepared.”
While many left early, thousands more stuck it out. Massive golf fans Neil Ferguson and Oliver Walker both traveled 300 miles from Macclesfield to watch. They forgot their umbrellas, but that didn’t stop them from sitting in the grandstands in the rain, or from following Darren Clarke.
Neil Ferguson and Oliver Walker hang out along the first fairway “Because we’re stupid,” Ferguson said half-jokingly. “We could do with it being a bit of a dry off.”
As the final pair of Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover prepared to tee off, Andrew East, Ian Farminer and his sons Matt and Mark Farminer had just left the Bollinger Tent to grab a spot along the first fairway to watch.
Asked why they chose to stay, East quipped, “We wanted to get wet and drink champagne. We’re just happy and social people.”
The four men from Guilford, Surrey, weren’t going to miss the golf, no matter what. While they drove about an hour and a half, Royal St. George’s is considered their local Open since the others on the circuit are further north or in Scotland. Andrew East, Ian Farminer, Mark Farminer & Matt Farminer fresh out of the champagne tent to watch Darren Clarke tee off And despite the miserable conditions, they all agreed it was well worth it.
“For Americans, they’re used to playing what we call target golf,” said Ian Farminer. “In this country, you have to put up with this all day and every day. We’re getting to watch the best golfers in the world try to cope with these conditions.
“It’s fantastic. They’re trying to maneuver the ball and things they wouldn’t normally do because of the conditions.”
Mark Farminer was responsible for dragging the group out of the Bollinger tent.
“We love our golf, and we’d rather be in the rain watching golf than sitting down, doing nothing,” he said. “We had a bit of drinking, and then we come back out to get drenched.
“This weather is what makes this championship quite special, actually. It makes it different than anything else.”