“Balls in the Air with Charlie Rymer” Podcast Episode 19: Links Golf & Previewing The Open Championship

In this episode of “Balls in the Air,” Charlie talks about his experience playing links golf, playing in The Open Championship, and why he’s enjoyed both experiences so much. He wraps up the show by previewing the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, including his sleeper pick to win it!

Balls In The Air Podcast · Ep. 19: Links Golf & Previewing the Open Championship

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Charlie Rymer (00:10):

Hi and welcome into the Charlie Rymer Balls in the Air podcast. I’m your neighborhood host Charlie Rymer, mostly friendly. Yesterday I was very friendly here in Myrtle Beach. I had rolled out the Big Green Egg and cooked up some brisket for some of my neighbors. And I got to admit, I had a little bit of it myself, got a little pecan wood, a little mesquite. Man, I had this whole place smoking up, but there were a lot of smiles when that brisket came up off the grill last night and pretty darn good stuff right there. But anyway, let me get back to the subject in hand. This ladies and gentlemen is British Open week. That’s right. I said, British Open. Some people yell at you for saying British Open. And now that this is a show for another day, but I always find it interesting, the different groups that are involved in shaping the words that we use to describe golf.

Charlie Rymer (01:08):

You have, for example, the USGA and the R&A whose charge it is to protect the integrity of the game, administer the rules of golf, and they have a way that they want you to speak about golf. You have the broadcast partners who have a vested interest in making sure that their partners are happy with their broadcasts and the way that events are branded, which events occasionally get a little spin on the old branding. That certainly happened to the British Open, which went to The Open Championship and now is referred to as simply The Open. Style guides are published for folks that cover these events in the hopes that they’ll choose to use the appropriate names and titles and phrases. I’ve got no problem with that. That’s just the world we live in. And then finally, and this is where I’m the most concerned or put the most emphasis, is on authentic golf.

Charlie Rymer (02:06):

That’s why I was originally hired to be a golf broadcaster, to bring you, the fan of golf, inside our great game. That involves using the terms that the folks that play golf every week use. I’ll give you an example. It comes up quite frequently. Your pairings at the muckety mucks in the world of golf on Thursday and Friday, when three players are together, want that to be referred to as a grouping. On the weekend, if you go to twosomes, which most of the time you do, then that becomes a pairing. Their argument is, well, you got to use proper English. Well, I can tell you if I’m walking up and down the driving range on any given week on the PGA TOUR, you can ask a player who you’re paired with, and he’ll tell you two other players. It doesn’t make sense.

Charlie Rymer (02:56):

It’s not proper English, but it’s authentic golf. And that’s where I try to stay. I try to stick with authentic golf. So, this week is British Open week, I’ve always called it that, and I’m going to continue to call it that until I am told that I have to otherwise. And I don’t anticipate that ever happening again. But anyway, let me talk a little bit about links golf and my love for links golf. I absolutely adore it. And I first went to the UK and Ireland back in 1988 and it was an amazing trip. I was 20 years old and about a year prior to the trip, maybe a little farther than a year out, my late grandmother, she got my dad and I together and I was raised by my mom and stepfather. I didn’t know my biological father very well up until about this time, we started playing a little golf together and we always got along great.

Charlie Rymer (03:54):

It’s no sad story or anything. It was just one of those things that happened. And we ended up having a great relationship, but she wanted us to get a little bit closer. And she told my dad and I, she said, “You guys plan a dream trip to go play golf in Scotland and Ireland.” She said, “I want to fund it. I just want you guys to spend time together. It’s something that you’ve bonded over. Neither one of you have been over there. I’d like you to go do it together.” She said, “Take three weeks, have just a trip of a lifetime.” And so we recruited a cousin and his wife. And so the four of us put this trip together and I was charged with doing the planning. And I use a company that is still around today. Now, remember, this is back in 1988. Company’s called PerryGolf.

Charlie Rymer (04:38):

They do a wonderful job. Gordon Dalgleish is the founder and president. His brother, Colin Dalgleish. Both of them. They’re obviously Scottish. Colin’s a heck of a player, not that Gordon is bad, but Colin was actually a British amateur champion back in the day. So, a really good player. And they put this trip together. In the meantime, I wrote the R&A because I had heard that if you were a player from outside the UK and you had a strong competitive record that you could get an exemption from the first round of qualifying and go to what, at the time, I believe it was called on-site qualifying. And they typically used four golf courses in the area within a couple of hours of wherever the venue was. And it would be Sunday, Monday, you play 36 holes. And there was normally about 50 spots total that were available.

Charlie Rymer (05:26):

So, 10 to 13 or 14 spots at each golf course. Well, I wrote to get an exemption for the first qualifier and shockingly the R&A granted my exemption. So, I set up the whole trip around the on-site qualifier for the 1988 British Open. We’d take off on our trip. We went to Ireland. That was the first golf I ever played in that part of the world. And enthralled with Ireland. We spent a week there, we went to Scotland, we played all the great courses. An amazing trip. We had a great time. The four of us got along super well. The weather was horrible everywhere we went. I wear size 15 shoes. I wore two pairs of shoes out. I couldn’t hardly find any shoes to play in. I think I ended up playing in tennis shoes. Our rain suits weren’t as good as they were, but I just, I loved every minute of it.

Charlie Rymer (06:19):

I can remember playing Lahinch and watching my dad take an umbrella out on the first tee and the umbrella just went poof. There it goes. And I’m like, dad, you can’t use an umbrella in conditions like this, but the Old Course, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Trojan, Ballybunion. We had a chance to play them all in Ireland and Scotland. And I played horrible, horrible golf the entire time. Barely broke 80. You’ve never seen anything like it, but I loved it. And so the end of the trip, we ended up near Blackpool and had a hotel there and went and played a practice round at a little golf course called Lytham Green Drive on a Saturday. And I started hitting it pretty well during the little practice round. And my dad was out watching me play.

Charlie Rymer (07:12):

And something happened on Sunday. The first round of the on-site qualifying, I got paired with Eduardo Romero of Córdoba, Argentina, who, a heck of a player later on, ended up being the U.S. Senior Open champion. And I went out and I don’t know what happened, but I shot the course record on Sunday. I shot 64. It was just crazy. And again, I had coming in, I hadn’t broken 80. I got shoes that I can’t keep on my feet. You talk about coming out of nowhere. So, the second round Eduardo basically held my hand. He knew I was scared to death. Here I am on between my junior and senior year at Georgia Tech. And I go out, I think I shot maybe one under the second round. I didn’t really need to do much. I just needed to not have a disaster and maybe finish sixth or seventh and get a spot.

Charlie Rymer (08:05):

And they handed me my ticket. And Monday night, I’m the only amateur from the U.S. in the British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. And the club there threw a nice party for me. The captain of the club gave me a plaque for shooting the course record, ended up staying at one of the members’ houses that week. Talk about just an incredible experience and the family that we stayed with, it was like Goldfinger from the James Bond movies. And just the yellow Rolls-Royce out in the front [inaudible 00:08:42] would wear a yellow patent leather shoes. It was really crazy, but they had enough room for all four of us, which was really cool. So, I ended up playing a practice round that week with Larry Mize, who I found on Tuesday. He was one of the few players I knew.

Charlie Rymer (08:58):

I knew Larry Mize, and I knew Jack Nicklaus. And I knew that I shouldn’t be bugging Jack Nicklaus about playing a practice round. I did say hello to him. He said, “What in the world are you doing here?” And I told him, “I got a spot.” And he got a chuckle out of that. But Larry said, he said, “Let’s play a practice round on Wednesday.” And he wrote us down in the tee sheet there to play with Hubert Green, the late Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller. And talk about having just the time of my life, playing with those two, it was so much fun. And when the tournament started on Thursday, I had a super late tee time. I was playing with Brad Faxon and another professional, an Englishman sort of like me, not much of a career to note, but a nice guy.

Charlie Rymer (09:45):

And the tee time was almost like four o’clock local time. And you can imagine here I am 20 years old, an amateur play in the largest golf tournament in the world. And I got a 4 PM tee time. Sleep did not come easily and finally get to the golf course. And the first hole of the Royal Lytham is famously a par three. I was scared to death. Somehow I hit a six iron right in the middle of the green. The hole location, as I recall, was back right, and had about 18 or 20 feet for birdie and big crowds around it. And grandstands around a lot of the greens there, and actually a former teammate of mine, Nacho Gervas who played at Georgia Tech. He was a great player, made it to the European Tour, Spaniard. He was caddying for me, and he was trying to calm me down and couldn’t really do that.

Charlie Rymer (10:33):

So, I got this 18-footer for birdie, first hole in the British Open. At this time, I’d never even played in a regular PGA tournament. And I left it dead end at the road about five feet short. And now I got this five footer for par. Inside left, put a little speed on it. I left that dead end at the road about 10 inches short of the hole, I mean, dead center, 10 inches short. And then I go up and now I’ve got a 10 incher for bogey, and I hit it as hard as I could. And it got to the front of the whole stopped and then somehow fell in for a bogey. And that ended up being sort of the story of the day. Just really nervous and uncomfortable. The winds were over 40 miles an hour that day. I’d never seen anything like that.

Charlie Rymer (11:13):

Rough was really high. I shot 83, but yeah, that was my score. I signed for it, earned my way there. Next day played a little bit better. I shot 77. I really wanted to make sure I broke 80 and finished there at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s 16, 17, 18 is really brutal. And I remember parring those last three holes to shoot 77. So, 83, 77 sounds horrible. I know, but consider this, ladies and gentlemen, Mark Calcavecchia also shot 160 at the 1988 British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s. The next year at the British Open 1989 tournament, he won it. So, I’ve got that going for me. I know it’s not much, but it’s something right. But that really, that three weeks started my love affair with links golf. It looks different. Folks have never been … a lot of times on TV, it doesn’t look good. It looks burn out. The wind’s blowing.

Charlie Rymer (12:13):

It’s hard to pick up all the features of the golf course on television, even as good as all our lenses on the technology that we have. Until you’ve played it and been on the ground and understand how they play the game there. It’s a walking game, which is unbelievably the best way to play this game. You keep the ball in front of you. A lot of times, if you’re playing a golf course that has high rough, and a lot of them do, and I’m not the straightest in the world. The way I find my golf ball is I have a pretty good idea most of the time within about 15 yards, how long my driver goes. And if it’s in the rough, I’ll go, all right, that’s just a little left of that church steeple off in the distance.

Charlie Rymer (12:57):

I’ll count my steps. Into the wind and go about 270, start looking and sure enough, you can find the golf ball. Down the wind I’ll go about 300 on the line that the ball was on and start looking and sure enough, you’ll find your ball. It’s the kind of golf that you really don’t need a laser. Honestly, you don’t even need yardages that much, especially if the winds up. If the wind’s not up in the course, you’ve gotten a little sock, you need some yardage. But it’s all about feel. It’s all about trying to figure out from a 150 yards, how to hit a five iron and run it in low. And the way the wind works there is it typically doesn’t shift during the course of a day, or if it does shift, there’s one shift and you might have 6, 7, 8 holes in a row that you’re playing in to a particular wind. You turn around and goes the other way.

Charlie Rymer (13:48):

So, you’re always having to adjust par. Might say that it’s a par four on the scorecard, but if it’s into the wind, it’s really a par five. You got to make sure you don’t get upset about that, because, hey, you’re going to have, coming back the other way, you’re going to have a hole that’s a par five on the card, but because it’s downwind, it’s really a four. So, par becomes irrelevant. It just becomes about you hitting the shot that’s right in front of you. You got to use your creativity, which I know is difficult for some people to pick up, because the golf courses look bland on TV, but believe me, they are not bland. And it’s just a refreshing way to play golf. And it’s a type of golf that never ever, ever gets boring. The conditions are different.

Charlie Rymer (14:33):

The sand is a little bit different in the bunkers. It tends to be a little more powdery. It sort of feels like marble dust and those bunkers, a lot of times, when you look at them, they’re small they’re round and you think, well, that’s not a very big bunker, but what happens is the way the fairway is prepared typically around the bunkers, is they almost act like little black holes. When you get within about 15 yards and one of those bunkers, it’ll just sometimes spiral right down in and roll in one of those bunkers. And most of the time if you’re hitting a fairway bunker, you’re going to have to get a really good break if you’re going to have a play at the green. And a lot of regards, I think that’s the way that the game should be. But it takes a ton of patience.

Charlie Rymer (15:17):

You’re going to have a lot of times, if you got an early time, you can have very different conditions than someone that has a late time. You just got to tell yourself, this week is going to even out. If it doesn’t even out this week, over the course of a career, it’ll even out. You just have to stay positive. You have to stay upbeat. Tom Watson, the person many argue is the greatest links player of all time. He’s the ultimate in that. Not getting emotional about watching where golf ball goes. Staying patient, staying in the present, grinding it out. These are the elements that are required to play really good golf and The Open Championship or links golf in general. And it’s not for everybody. I understand that. But for me, it’s something that I really appreciate and enjoy.

Charlie Rymer (16:02):

I wish I had some insight for you on Royal St. George’s. I haven’t been there. Obviously I’ve read all the reports so you can go read all that, if you’re interested in it. Now, some of the players get a little grumbly about Royal St. George’s and I believe that’s because the golf course has a lot of blind shots. A lot of players don’t really care for blind shots. You can make the argument they’re spoiled. I’m not really going to go there, but it’s a lot of humps and bumps in the fairways. A lot of times you can hit a ball. What you think is right in the middle of the fairway can take a bad hop and carry them off somewhere into a tough lie. And a lot of times the opposite is true. So, the term rub of the green applies more and the British Open, I think maybe than any other golf that we see. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for those that appreciate it, it’s one of the two most fun weeks of the year to be a fan of golf.

Charlie Rymer (17:00):

And it certainly applies to me, especially having some great memories of playing in a British Open when I was 20 years old, way back in the last century in 1988. If you look at the list of favorites this week, I’ll just finish there. John Rahm, rightfully so, is at the top of the list. And I think a lot of smart money is going there. John, obviously a very talented golfer in terms of looking at his record, everything he’s done since he turned professional. Now the U.S. Open champion. He has confidence. Before winning the U.S. Open he was as confident a player as I’ve ever seen in my life. I can’t imagine how confident that he feels right now, but he’s not my pick.

Charlie Rymer (17:47):

When you look at the last five winners at Royal St. George’s, you got Darren Clarke, Ben Curtis, Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle, and Bill Rogers. And I want to point out Darren Clarke went in very late in his career, a very accomplished player from European to a Ryder Cup hero. Done a lot of great things in the game. Hadn’t won a major championship. It came a little bit out of nowhere. It was a very popular win. A very emotional win. Darren had lost a wife to cancer, and very publicly went through that. And a lot of people really appreciate Darren for his personality and the way he plays the game.

Charlie Rymer (18:23):

This British Open, I’m going to stay on that sentimental page. The guy that I like is Lee Westwood for a lot of the same reasons I just mentioned Darren Clarke. Just very well thought of. Ryder Cup hero. A lot of fun. Paid his dues. And if you look in the last 18 months, he’s really played some wonderful golf. And so, yeah, I might be, it’s certainly it’s a heart pick, but that’s who I have my eye on this week is Lee Westwood. And especially in a year when Phil Mickelson wins at the PGA, you got Stewart Cink winning at Harbour Town last week. Lucas Glover, after a long dry spell. And the year where old guys, well, they’re all younger than me, but you know what I mean are playing some great golf. Why not? Why not have Lee Westwood win the last major of the season? I know that would be a very popular win.

Charlie Rymer (19:14):

Well, everybody, enjoy the British Open this week at Royal St. George’s. I think it’s going to be one heck of a week as it always is. I can tell you that I’ll be watching quite a bit, and appreciate you listening here to the Charlie Rymer Balls in the Air podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast anywhere that you receive your podcast. And if you get a chance, like us, if you don’t like us, then you’re a rotten egg. I’m just going to end with that. We’ll be right here next week with a fresh episode. The Charlie Rymer Balls in the Air podcast. Everybody have a great week and enjoy the British Open!