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The long and winding fairways… a successful day for The Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s dark at 03:20 on the 25th July.

Properly dark… not even the hint of a sunrise and yet this is only a month after the longest day?

Not sure if you were aware of that? I certainly wasn’t. I don’t tend to be padding about at that time of the morning, and for our eight golfers who were taking on the Pioneers of the Past Golf Challenge, it wasn’t their normal waking time either. Yet here they all were, in the car park at Prestwick Golf Club and (after some caffeine) standing at the Cairn which marks the location of the opening tee shot during the 1860 Open Championship. The great, great Grandson of Sir James Ogilvy Fairlie is an Honorary Trustee of the Tommy’s Honour Education Trust and Dominic drew the lucky straw (he’s a member at Prestwick GC, so he knows where the first fairway is, even at 04:35) to hit the Opening drive of the Challenge. Needless to say, he aimed straight and true and found the fairway.

The Challenge quickly gathered pace, although some additional challenges presented themselves by starting so early. Yes, the light, although by 5am you could see pretty much everything. Including the sprinklers. Yes at this time of the morning, when golfers are usually tucked up in beds, the sprinklers are doing their work and given that it was predicted to be the hottest day of the year the golf course was going to be thirsty. The view across the links was one of numerous¬† fountains, and of course you can’t be sure where one is going to pop up next! Needless to say, thank goodness it was a warm day as it helped dry some of the teams out quickly!

Come 7am, and some interesting experiences (if you’ve ever been left with a shot in the 17th’s Sahara bunker that’s 1 foot off the vertical timbers and you’re playing it with the sleepers at your back…) the teams clambered aboard the cars and minibus (donated very kindly by Muirfield Travel) and headed off to Musselburgh Links.

As Prestwick is known as the Home of the Open Championship, so Musselburgh Links is known as the Cradle of Golf because so many past Champions have originated from there. The course itself is 9 holes and played almost entirely within the bounds of the horse racing track at Musselburgh. It’s a famous venue to play with hickory-shafted clubs as it has changed little since the Challenge matches were played there between Morris and Park and their families. Our teams mixed up compared to their pairings at Prestwick, and by the end of the day, everyone had been able to share the company of everyone else. Our Professionals were David Fleming of Prestwick GC, Norman Huguet of Musselburgh GC and Martyn Huish of North Berwick GC. Our guests were Clara Young (past Member of Scottish Golf National Team), Mark Richardson (Secretary, The New Golf Club of St Andrews), Chic Harper (Past Captain, The New Golf Club of St Andrews) and Dominic Fairlie (as mentioned above) – and of course, our Founder and the brainchild behind The Challenge, William Lumsden.

Musselburgh’s 9 holes completed, it was off to the West Links at North Berwick and to play the course which saw the last meeting between Old Tom and his great friend and rival Willie Park. Hugging the coastal dunes, the West Links are full of swales, undulations and drystone dykes (walls) which originate from the early days of the links when the land was divided up into strips for the grazing of sheep by different farmers or land owners. Needless to say, dealing with a stone wall across your line when a long, low second shot to the green is required… well, it’s a challenge in itself!

After a bit of well-deserved and long-overdue lunch, the teams boarded their transport again to head to the New Course at St Andrews although the planned shorter route via a small boat from North Berwick to Anstruther is kyboshed by the high pressure weather system which has brought 29+C temperatures to this area. The winds have picked up and the boat will not be going. This then means an extra 2 hours on top of the 1 hour planned crossing. The route, around the Edinburgh City by-pass and over the new Forth Road Bridge at rush hour, is painfully slow but at 7:30 pm they are ready to tee-off at the New Course in St Andrews. A short shower of rain greets them midway through the round as the sun begins to dip below the hills behind Guardbridge, and the two teams eventually complete their Challenge at 9:45pm, some 17 hours later and a FitBit busting number of steps! The Jigger Inn has perhaps never seen such an appreciative group of players!

Our immense thanks go to the 8 players for putting their stamina, patience, health and golf swings on the line to complete the ‘Pioneers of the Past Golf Challenge’, to everyone who gave their time and services for free and to everyone who has donated so far. It is really appreciated.

You can see a short video of the whole day here, and please remember that you can donate to help us deliver even more education classes in primary schools by going to https://justgiving.com/campaign/Pioneers

Just a year to go until it all take space again! If you’d like to bid for one of the 4 amateur places next year, please get in touch via the website (www.learnfromthelegacy.co.uk/contact/).

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