Unemployed, living with mom and playing the Open

June 12, 2008

Two-time British Amateur champion Gary Wolstenholme will finally realize a long-held dream Thursday when he tees it up in his first U.S. Open. The late withdrawal of Sean O’Hair means the 47-year-old Englishman will play with Hunter Mahan and South African Richard Sterne.

There was speculation that Adam Scott might be the first to pull out of the Open with a finger injury, which would have given Wolstenholme the dream ticket of joining Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds. Wolstenholme, who won the British Amateur in 1991 and 2003, has some history with Woods: he was the last man to beat Woods as an amateur in the singles at the 1995 Walker Cup, an event Wolstenholme has played in five times.

How far their paths have diverged since. Woods is on track to become golf’s first billionaire while Wolstenholme is unemployed and living with his mother, and has sacrificed his unemployment payments to travel to Torrey Pines. The English Golf Union helped with his airfare, but Wolstenholme is paying for his $99-a-night motel room and taxis to and from the course (other players have courtesy cars). He has also been seen sitting alone in the locker room in the evenings eating the free sandwiches. “It was to tide me over for the night because I can’t afford to eat out,” he said.

Wolstenholme slammed the USGA for spoiling what should have been a special week. They have not allowed him to play the course, because he wasn’t officially in the championship until Wednesday afternoon and he has felt abandoned. “They said, ‘Get over here, Gary, and we’ll look after you.’ But after two days, they didn’t want to know me. This has cost me a lot of money. I’m sure the R&A would have been more helpful.”

But the bitterness eased some when he made the field. “If I could just make the cut, that would be a hell of an achievement,” Wolstenholme said. “It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.”