Hall Cannot Wait
HALL CANNOT WAIT FOR MUIRFIELD OPEN
Contributor: Lewine Mair
None among the women playing in this summer’s AIG Women’s Open will be more intent on having a winning week than the host club, Muirfield. Though this famous Open Championship venue has held two Curtis Cups — one in 1952 and the other in 1984 — this will be the first time they have played host to the world’s leading women professionals.
Things have happened fast at Muirfield across the last few years. In 2016, there was that abortive and somewhat embarrassing first vote in which they decided against women members. That decision was reversed the following year and, such was the speed and ease with which the new arrivals settled in that when, in July 2020, the club were invited to stage the 2022 Women’s Open, most of the membership, including the ever growing cohort of women, were fully in favour.
Many of the competitors might have the feeling that they know the links already after having watched on television as Phil Mickelson won the 2013 Open. Georgia Hall, who won the 2018 Women’s Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, is among them. “It never occurred to me then that we’d have our Open there one day but, now that we have been given the chance, I can’t wait,” she said.
There is no question that this is an exciting first for the women, but Dame Laura Davies, another who will be teeing up in July, has happy memories of her last year as an amateur when she played in the Curtis Cups at the club. In a match which the US won by 91⁄2-81⁄2, Davies defeated Anne Sander at the 18th in the second day’s singles. “I thought it was one of the finest and fairest courses I’d ever played,” said Davies. “The women are going to love it. They’ll find that they can ease their way into things over the first few holes before it gets tougher — and tougher!”
That the Curtis Cup is the thriving affair that it is today is at least partly down to what happened in 1952. At the time, there was a rising tide of opinion that the match should be scrapped altogether, what with the Americans’ five wins on the six occasions it had been played previously, punctuated by a lone halved match. However, the GB&I side who came to Muirfield that year stamped out that negative suggestion by winning 6-5. Given the circumstances, perhaps everyone should feel grateful to the American player who had a couple of sockets to lose the deciding singles.
In all, perhaps the only thing which changes not one wit for a St Andrews Open is the inner golfer. The Old Course whips up nerves as nowhere else, just as the friendships forged between man and links would seem to be unique.
In 1921, Bobby Jones who, unlike Faldo, was without the benefit of the Micklem advice not to “get mad” at the course, withdrew after 11 holes of his third round and let everyone know that he disliked the place. The town hit back. “Master Bobby,” advised one old worthy, “is just a boy and an ordinary boy at that!”
By the time Jones returned for his runaway, six-shot win of 1927, the atmosphere was altogether different and when, after his retirement, he returned in 1936 for what he thought would be a quiet morning round with friends, 5,000 spectators awaited. Businesses closed as word spread that “Our Bobby is back!” and, by the time the Jones party reached the 18th, their number was up to 7,000.
It was in 1958, by which time he was suffering the effects of a rare disorder of the spinal cord and was confined to a wheelchair, that Jones was made a freeman of the Burgh of St Andrews. In an emotional address, he came out with that never-to-be-forgotten line as to how, if he had known nothing other than his experiences in St Andrews, he would still have enjoyed “a rich, full life”.