‘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

Today's Golfer (UK) - - FIRST TEE -

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!

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