Ian Baker-Finch finally didn’t flinch.
A first child, a first step, a first kiss, a first
love all rekindle special goose-bump memories. A golf writer’s very first British Open
experience almost 20 years ago also remains
a vivid recollection to this day, evoking warm
and tingly feelings, too.
The year was 1991, the venue Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, off the northwest
Atlantic coast. Not only would it be my first
Open, it also was the first time I would cover
a major championship for my newspaper, The
Washington Post, having just been assigned
the golf beat, one of the grandest opportunities of my professional life.
Driving up from Heathrow and finally
approaching the course, off in the distance
grandstands rising above the dunes at holes
all around appeared to me like giant Lego
creations of a 6-year-old’s attempt to build
a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The bleached-white
Birkdale clubhouse had the look of a sleek
ocean liner, and even as I sit here typing, the
distinctive whiff of Southport’s salty sea air
seems to be wafting through the room.
In my mind’s eye, I can also recall my
very first up-close and personal view of Seve
Ballesteros, already a three-time champion.
It was a practice round, and Seve was knee-deep in the high hay, attempting a tricky
approach shot through a funnel of spectators
seemingly in harm’s way. With grass flying
and heads twisting to see the flight of the ball,
of course the shot went straight and true,
landing on the green and rolling nicely into
Better yet, there was a mucho macho Seve
in the interview room a few days later after
pushing within two shots of the 54-hole lead a
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