‘I played in The Open in the morning, then served the players in the afternoon’
Carnoustie’s assistant pro got the call on Friday night, and teed off at 9.15am the next day
Keir Mcnicoll’s only previous taste of being inside the ropes at The Open was caddying for his best friend Eric Ramsay at St Andrews in 2005. “That was amazing in itself,” he admits, but “nothing beats playing in one at your home club”. The reality is that few ever get the chance to do so, least of all someone who is expected to play in the morning and work in the pro shop in the afternoon. But after accepting the opportunity to tee it up as a marker during the third and final round at Carnoustie, Mcnicoll led the field off each day and got more than he bargained for, including a birdie on 18 and a pep talk from Justin Rose… My boss Colin [Sinclair] gave me the nod a couple of months ago, just after I won the Scottish qualifier for the PGA Pro Championship. The tournament was scheduled for the week after The Open and he told me that if there was an odd number, I would play as a marker during the weekend and use it as my practice. But it wasn’t until nine on the Friday night after all the groups came in that I knew I was playing.
I asked my sister to caddie for me. She’s from Carnoustie as well and works at Gullane Golf Club. She was back home on holiday for the week, so she was happy to pick up the bag. She was probably more excited than I was!
It was a different kind of nervousness from what I was used to. My score didn’t really matter, and as a golfer that’s normally all you care about. But the enormity of playing in The Open, in front of a home crowd and at a course where you’ve grown up, that was where the emotion and nerves came from.
I used to be a member of Carnoustie Golf Club as a junior.
I then went to America for university, came back and did my PGA training at Gullane and joined Carnoustie last year as its senior assistant professional. It was a round about way of coming back.
I hadn’t been playing well the last couple of weeks, so that was another reason why I felt a bit apprehensive. Before I teed off, I bumped into Justin Rose, who was coming on to the range when I was coming off. He knew I was playing as the marker, and he was very genuine and said ‘have a great time, really enjoy it’. That meant a lot.
I actually knew a lot of the players from when I played as
an amateur. It was nice to catch up with some of them, like Russell Knox and Matthew Southgate, who’s our club member. I didn’t get a chance to speak to Tommy Fleetwood or Rory Mcilroy, but I did play a few matches against them when we were younger.
I managed to par the first. I got the tee shot going forward and airborne, which was the key! I hit a few loose shots after that, and under that environment it definitely shows up. I must have been close to shooting 80. I played with Gavin Green – the Asian Tour No.1 – and he beat me comfortably. It was only his second tournament in Scotland, so he was asking for some advice about playing the Dunhill and places to stay.
I felt a lot more comfortable
playing on Sunday. I went out with Beau Hossler and had the intention of shooting a golf score and plotting my way around. We went out in a similar score, but he had a good back nine with an eagle on 14.
Holing a putt off the back of the 18th green on Sunday was a
great way to sign off. It went up the hill and in the hole from around 50ft for birdie and got a huge cheer. That was pretty special.
It was difficult to trump walking
on to the first tee on Saturday. It was crazy. There wasn’t a spare seat and there were a lot of people I knew in the stands. My sister and I were both pretty emotional standing on the first tee. I certainly had to gather myself; I was close to tears.
I still had to work in the pro shop after both rounds, serving plenty of famous faces and their
families. Everyone put in a massive shift, working really long hours, so it was only right that I pulled my weight. I got to enjoy myself on Saturday and Sunday morning. One memento I’ll treasure most is the player’s badge. It’s pretty cool. I’ll be keeping that for sure!