Associate Athletic Director Kevin Blue ('05) is traveling with the men's golf team on their foreign tour to Scotland. Blue was an Academic All-American and men's golf team captain during his playing career at Stanford, and will be providing updates to GoStanford.com throughout the tour. Previous updates can be found here.
PRESTWICK, Ayrshire, Scotland - The Open Championship has been played since 1860. Unlike other major sporting events such as the Olympic Games, it is contested today at the same set of venues and under nearly the same format as it was in its early years. Today's match took place at historic Prestwick Golf Club, the site of the first eleven Open Championships. Prestwick has hosted the Open a total of 24 times, second only to the Old Course at St. Andrew's. The legendary champion Old Tom Morris was Prestwick's first head professional, and the clubhouse is so adorned with historically significant golf artifacts that it could easily serve as a museum of the sport's history.
Prestwick is a quirky old layout, featuring several blind shots and boundaries that encroach on the fairways. The first hole runs immediately parallel to an active railway line, and the grounds lay adjacent to the Prestwick airport. Several of us found the noise of planes during the round ironic, given that golf was played at Prestwick many decades before the Wright brothers even began to consider the idea of manned aircraft.
One of the distinctive features of the course is the infamous "Cardinal bunker" on the par 5 third hole (yes, it is really called that), which crosses the fairway and stretches 50 yards across. Two other holes are aptly named - the fifth and seventeenth are called "Himalayas" and "Alps" respectively, paying tribute to the mountain-like sand dunes found on each hole that completely block all visibility of the green on the approach shot. "Himalayas" is especially unconventional because it calls for a blind shot on a par three.
The grounds at Prestwick are now too small to handle the massive crowds found at modern day Opens, so the championship hasn't been contested at Prestwick since 1925. Nonetheless, Prestwick remains a challenging layout that tests many of the best amateur players in the world. Several holes on the backside have been lengthened and play against the prevailing wind, further stressing a player for yardage and penalizing mishit shots. The course hosted the British Amateur most recently in 2001.
Today's opponent was the University of Stirling, a liberal arts university located on the outskirts of Stirling in the north east of Scotland. Stirling is one of the very few universities in the UK that offers athletic scholarships, and their golf team is made up of several players who have international team experience. Stirling is the current champions of the U.K. and European University competition.
The teams went out in ten singles matches. Stanford was off to a fast start with sophomore Patrick Rodgers and senior Steve Kearney playing earning sound victories against two strong players from the Stirling side. The host team then drew ahead by winning four of the next five matches and Stirling's Culverwell halving Stanford's freshman David Boote. Stanford would finish as strong as they started, led by a victory by senior Andre DeDecker. Assistant coach Phil Rowe and myself - former college teammates and "ringers" filling in for current players on this trip - turned back the clock and secured Stanford's final two points to clinch a victory for our side by a score of 5.5-4.5.
The donors on the tour with Stanford also faced off against a group of donors from University of Stirling in handicapped best ball matches, and prevailed by a score of 4-2.
Knowles Family Director of Men's Golf and head coach Conrad Ray commented on the match:
"It was fun to see the guys get tested by a very strong Stirling team today and a course like Prestwick that put pressure on all facets of the game. I was happy with their play today, especially given the windy conditions. We're looking forward to a great day of 36 holes tomorrow and the match against St. Andrew's University on Tuesday."
Stanford 5.5 def. Stirling 4.5
Patrick Rodgers def. D. Booth 4 & 3
Steve Kearney def. G. Roberston 4 & 3
J. MacDonald def. Patrick Grimes 5 & 4
M. Eggenberger def. Shane Lebow 4 & 3
D. Merckx def. Dominick Francks 1 up
David Boote halved Z. Culverwell
P. Spraggs def. Wilson Bowen 5 & 4
Andre DeDecker def. O. Roberts 3 & 2
Philip Rowe def. K. Holmes 2 & 1
Kevin Blue def. M. Howard 4 & 3
Following the match the team headed eastward to Edinburgh and enjoyed a unique dinner at the remarkable Edinburgh Castle. The castle overlooks the city and is the most recognizable part of Edinburgh's skyline. It is believed that royalty inhabited the castle as early as the 12th century. The team and donors were given a brief tour of the premises, including a look into the vault where the crown jewels of Scotland are still kept.
Stay tuned for more from Scotland. Tomorrow is a 36-hole day with non-competitive rounds at two classic seaside links, North Berwick and Gullane.