Simon Edwards shot a 7-over 79.
Harry How/Getty Images
Friday, December 09, 2011

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Bubba Watson had 74, K.J. Choi 76, and Victor Dubuisson, French amateur, 80. One by one they came staggering off the Old Course, the unlucky ones on the wrong end of the draw at the 139th British Open at St. Andrews.

The only natural hazard to hit the morning wave of players were green flies, tiny little flying squadrons that took advantage of the windless early hours on Thursday, but the afternoon starters got hit first with a bad squall at 6 p.m., and then again with a much worse blast of heavy rain and wind at 7:30. It was a proper soak.

"Blow the horn," spectator Malcolm Edwards yelled to no one in particular as rain pelted the large TaylorMade umbrella being held sideways by his daughter, Ann.

Edwards laughed. His son Simon, a 39-year-old Welsh club pro playing in his first Open, was out in the worst of it, bogeying the par-3 11th hole on his way to a first-round 79, barely through any fault of his own.

Along with American George McNeill (78) and Japan PGA Tour rookie Jae-Bum Park (76), Simon Edwards was in the last group, the unluckiest threesome, trudging along in the worst of the weather and the divots made by the 153 competitors in front of them. They teed it up as volunteers took scoreboards down, and as the fish-and-chips van and coffee and ice cream kiosks collapsed their awnings, their proprietors counting their quid.

Malcolm Edwards was a fine club player in his day. As he tried in vain to stay dry he recalled the time he played the Old Course 25 years ago and went around in 74. But he never played in an Open like his son, Simon, who enjoyed the odd smoke as he made his way along the bumpy links. The weather was inflicting fatal wounds on his scorecard: Tied for 149th place after his 79, Edwards would need a miracle to make the cut Friday.

Still, he smiled as he made his way around, a defiant cheerfulness he seemed to have inherited from his dad.

"Would you believe it, I had a club in his hand the day he was born," Malcolm said. "Arnold Palmer had this golf set then, with the little plastic clubs. The nurse said, 'What's that?' I said, 'It's a golf club. Would you put it in his hand?' She said, 'Has it been sterilized?' Sterilized! It hadn't been sterilized! Oh, she gave me a right good roastin', that one."

Malcolm Edwards gave a big laugh. He was soaked, but his boy was living a dream. Simon survived a playoff to get through pre-qualifying for the Open, and survived another playoff, four for one, with a birdie on the first extra hole. Among those he knocked out with the birdie was one of his best friends.

Now he was in the midst of something much bigger than winning the British Club Professionals' Championship in 2001, or the Welsh PGA championship in '02 and '03. Thursday was a day to savor, even if the weather was a disaster.

"We're very proud of my big brother," Ann said.

For the occasion of his first Open, Simon brought the whole clan from back home in Wrexham, north Wales, and from his current home, Windermere, England, and even a few old pro-am partners from points in between. With his wife and two children; his parents; his sister and her son; his caddie; and even the greenskeeper from Windermere Golf Club, where Edwards is the pro, there were 13 people in their British Open rental, a one-bathroom flat in nearby Cupar.

"We're all cueing up for the bathroom in the morning," Ann said with a grin.

Among the last three groups, only two men finished at par or better, American D.A. Points (72) and 37-year-old Malaysian pro Danny Chia (69).

The last threesome were a combined 17-over. Still, there was reason to remain enthusiastic. The Edwards clan planned to tip back several pints Thursday night, just as they'd done Wednesday, and would slumber in a relatively spacious rental house — only nine people this time, not 13. Tiger and Phil couldn't possibly be having this much fun.

 

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