BIGGA Support Team witnesses history at Royal Birkdale
Posted on Friday, 21st July 2017
The Open once again threw up an exciting finale on its final day, leaving members of the BIGGA Volunteer Support Team to soak up the incredible atmosphere at Royal Birkdale.
The event broke records to become the highest-attended Open ever held in England, and more than 40 BIGGA members were treated to the best seat in the house, in exchange for giving up their free time to help ensure the event went off without a hitch.
A single member attended every single match held during the tournament, meaning BIGGA greenkeepers witnessed Brandon Grace's record-breaking 62, amateur Alfie Plant stealing hearts to win the Silver Medal and the final duel between Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar.
Peter Allam raked the final match of the tournament and witnessed Jordan Spieth make history by becoming only the second male to ever win three different majors before his 24th birthday.
As the young Texan threatened to meltdown on the 13th, eagled the 15th and then sank a birdie putt on the final hole to claim his third Major, Peter was there to witness it all firsthand.
“It was one of the best things I have ever done,” said the Berkhamsted greenkeeper, who was volunteering on the BIGGA Support Team for the second time.
Peter was assigned the final match when his name was picked out of a hat at random, and he added: “I didn’t even think I was going to be here. I was on the reserve team for start and it was only when I got a call three weeks ago that I knew I’d be coming here, so to get the final match was incredible.”
On the final day of play the BIGGA Support Team were called into action 190 times, with Steve Hemsley called in to action the most, raking nine times for Brooks Koepka and Austin Connelly in the third from final match.
During The Open the BIGGA Support Team raked Royal Birkdale's approximately 123 bunkers a total of 1,220 times.
Day three saw sunshine replace showers, and that combined with the smaller post-cut field meant the players were able to largely avoid the junkers, allowing the members of the BIGGA Support Team to relax and soak up the action.
Across Thursday and Friday the greenkeepers raked 883 bunkers, but Saturday saw the BIGGA Support Team called into action just 147 times.
It meant the team could soak up the atmosphere, but no one witnessed history more than Sean Sullivan, of The Briarwood in Montana, whose 4,300-mile journey was made worthwhile after he was on-hand to watch as Branden Grace shot the first 62 in Major history.
And Sean had an incredible souvenir to take away from the history-making moment after the South African gave Sean a signed ball.
With the final day of The Open underway, the BIGGA Support Team are as excited as everyone about the day ahead.
Peter Allam will be the most envied among the entire team, with the Berkhamsted greenkeeper’s name pulled out of the hat for the final match of the day, meaning he will bear witness to the duel between Matt Kuchar and tournament favourite Jordan Spieth.
The second day of The Open at Royal Birkdale was wild, wet and windy, but that didn’t stop the BIGGA Support Team from smiling.
Despite the atrocious conditions at the close of play, the professionals managed to learn from their mistakes on the first day, seeing a reduction in the number of bunkers raked.
During Friday’s play our guys were called into action 416 times, a reduction on the previous day, as the golfers got used to the course.
“The fairway bunkers are some of the best we’ve seen,” said former Open champion Paul Lawrie. “And they’re all in play off the tee.”
Among the members of the BIGGA Support Team, it was Ollie Kirk of Links (Newmarket) who had the most do, raking 16 bunkers for the unlikely trio of Henrik Stenson, Si Woo Kim and Jordan Spieth.
Earlier in the day and Dan Evans not only managed to avoid the worst of the weather, but he only had to rake twice.
This time it was the treacherous par-3 7th hole that caused the most headache for the golfers, with BIGGA Support Team volunteers raking the hole’s seven bunkers, including the famous island bunker, a total of 44 times.
Royal Birkdale's stunning links proved a tricky test on the first day of The Open yesterday (20 July), with the course's 123 bunkers lying in wait of any wayward shots.
"They're not too deep, but they're just well-polished," said Course Manager Chris Whittle, and he will have been delighted with how the sand traps performed following a very wet start to the day.
During the day members of the BIGGA Support Team were called into action 467 times, with Richard Saunders of Mowsbury raking the most, raking 18 in total.
The 'best seat in the house' award went to Jaime Acton, of Rushmore, who had to rake just three bunkers during the entire round. One of his grouping, Kevin Chappell, didn't go in a single bunker. Also avoiding sand traps throughout their entire round were Thomas Pieters, Paul Casey and Marc Leishman.
By contrast, Robert Dinwiddie and Sebastian Munoz gave their bunker rakers the most work, heading into the bunkers eight times each.
The hole which caught the golfers out the most was the par-5 17th, meaning greenkeepers hoping for a quiet end to the round were disappointed. With two dangerous fairway bunkers and three around the green, the BIGGA Support Team were called into action 62 times, the most of any hole.