Few people can claim to have sunk a huge birdie putt off the green of the final hole on the Sunday round of The Open – but that is exactly what a Carnoustie pro did last week.
It capped a “surreal” 48 hours for Keir McNicoll (34), senior PGA assistant at Carnoustie Golf Links, who played as a ‘marker’ at one of the most prestigious tournaments in world golf due to the uneven number of players making the cut.
While his birdie at 18 on Sunday, and the one at the third the day before will not go down in the records books, it will be remembered forever in a boyhood dream fulfilled by Keir in one of the best weeks of his life.
He told the Guide and Gazette: “My boss told me prior to the competition that I might get the nod to play but of course I didn’t know until the last group had finished on the Friday night.
“I was delighted but quite nervous at the time – the feeling on the first tee was incredible. The Saturday was the later tee-off time at nine o’clock so the stands were full and I genuinely felt quite emotional.
“The crowd made quite a cheer when I was on the tee. Before the Open we had been walking school children through this exact scenario – now I was doing it. It was quite surreal.
“Playing on the weekend of the Open at your home course is pretty impressive – it’s a box ticked. My chances of playing are very slim so this is the next best thing I can imagine.”
Keir, who has previously tried to qualify for the Open six times, played alongside Malaysia’s Gavin Green on the Saturday morning before pairing up with up-and-coming American Beau Hossler in the first group at 8am on Sunday. Sandwiched in between was a shift at the pro shop until 10pm the previous evening.
His sister Katy caddied for him, herself an assistant pro at Gullane.
He said: “I didn’t feel tired on the course at all. I think the adrenaline gets you through. Saturday could not get any more difficult – it was a bit of a blur.
“I did not play particularly well but it was very difficult compared to what we are used to. I birdied the third hole, I hit two great shots. Sunday, I had more of a plan to shoot a good score as I felt more comfortable.
“The second day holing the putt off the green on 18. I kind of saw it coming. I knew the line of the putt and I had the right speed – I was thinking please do not go in!
“It wasn’t embarrassment just felt a bit sheepish. But it was incredible.
“I shot nine over par. If I played that course under normal conditions I would expect to shoot around level par.
“If I’d shot maybe four over, a 75, I would have been really proud.”
Keir insists though the taste of playing in the Open hasn’t turned his head as he is determined to continue bringing through the next generation.
“I enjoyed the Open experience, it’s a fantastic thing for Carnoustie, for everyone, friends watched me play then they went back to watch Tiger Woods!
“But I’m very comfortable with what I’m doing at the club and making the junior programme the best it can – that’s my goal.
“Obviously, I’ve been a good player previously but it’s just not my focus anymore though that’s been one of the best weeks of my life.”