The time The Open champion saved a greenkeeper

The time The Open champion saved a greenkeeper

At Royal Birkdale in 1998 it was American Mark O’Meara who secured his second Major of the season by outlasting Brian Watts in a four-hole aggregate playoff.

That late finish caused some incredible drama, but for BIGGA Support Team member Russell Black, it meant he was stranded after the shuttle bus left for the hotel without him.

Thankfully, help was at hand in the form of the new Open champion and his wife.

Russell, who was working at Westerhope at the time but has now been retired for three years, said: “I was assigned to Mark’s group for the final round of the Open. His wife accompanied our group, and at the end she gave me an umbrella and a ball.

“We got held up with all the crowds and when I came to look for the bus, they had all left me.”

With no means of getting back to their hotel in Southport, both Russell and Kevin Bell of Elmwood College, were left wondering what to do next.

Thankfully, the new Open champion and his wife came over and offered a helping hand.

“They were concerned that I had been left stranded,” said Russell. “They asked if there was a problem and I told them I had missed the bus. Mark’s wife said ‘don’t you worry about that, come with us’. I couldn’t believe it, the guy had just won the Open.”

The new Open champion sat in the passenger seat, with the Claret Jug on his knee, while Russell and Kevin jumped into the back seat.

“When we arrived at the hotel I went inside and said ‘lads, you wouldn’t believe who I have just got a lift off’. They didn’t believe a word I said.”

To read about four times greenkeepers 'saved' The Open, click here.