Kieron Stevenson knew two weeks ago that he might be playing the weekend of the 145th Open Championship and, if he did make it onto the game’s greatest stage, he would be up early though he wouldn’t have to mark a card though.
Stevenson, from Ayrshire, has been the head professional at Royal Troon for the past nine years. Previously he has worked at none other than Oakmont, home to last month’s US Open, but this is his Major ‘debut’, of sorts. His previous claim to fame was a hole-in-one at the Postage Stamp in 2008.
When did you find out that playing in the Open was a possibility?
About two weeks ago – the R&A slightly changed the rules in that, if there was a single player then they had to take a marker, historically they had a choice. The reason for that was that they played too quickly as a single and would catch up with the greenkeepers – and that dubious honour goes to the host professional which is me.
So a fortnight ago I knew I had a 50-50 chance of playing.
And when did you know for sure that you would be teeing it up?
You only categorically know when the last player has signed their card on the Friday night. I knew if Haydn Porteous, who was two over and in the last group on Friday, made a six or better then I would be playing and he then hit his tee shot out of bounds. So then I thought I might not be playing but he parred his second ball and we would be paired together.
Have you been putting in any extra practice in the past fortnight?
I got a player’s badge for the week so I hit a few balls on the range, enough to hopefully get the ball on clubhead on the 1st which was the only thing I was worried about. I hit a driver down there and hit a good one.
I had met Haydn before which helped, he was here a couple of weeks ago for some practice rounds. And he was so nice, he shook my hand on the 1st tee and just said ‘enjoy it, which I thought was great.
The R&A told me on Friday night that they would announce me on the tee which would be a first, the stand was full but thankfully they are all behind you.
How does it work in terms of ‘marker etiquette’?
We chatted before and he said just play away and, if he holed out before me, I would pick up. He was playing so well, five under coming down the last, got a flyer and went out of bounds and took six. He absolutely bombs it, hits it miles. He would be 50 yards past me off the tee.
What were your highlights?
A good tee shot off the 1st! I hit it to about eight feet on the Postage Stamp, the putt cam up an inch short, and made a nice two on 14. Otherwise I hit good tee shots on 10 and 11, I didn’t want to be faffing about looking for balls and holding him up. I would probably have been about five or six over.
How different a round was it to all the others over the past nine years?
The wind is a normal wind for us and the greens are as they would be at this time of year, cut to 3mm. The hardest thing is going off the Championship tees, I normally play off the whites with the members. And then there were the grandstands; there were tons of folk at the Postage Stamp, then it goes quiet and, because Haydn was going so well, the crowds kept growing.
And same again tomorrow?
Yes, back tomorrow – whoever is last is saddled with me!