Tip-top performance

Ellon greenkeepers Brian Hunter (left) and John Geddes in front of the clubhouse at Royal Lytham.
Ellon greenkeepers Brian Hunter (left) and John Geddes in front of the clubhouse at Royal Lytham.

TWO North-east greenkeepers have been rubbing shoulders with golf’s elite after they were invited to Royal Lytham to play their part in the Open.

John Geddes and Brian Hunter were among three Scots chosen to keep the bunkers at the Lancashire links in tip-top condition during the tournament.

John, head greenkeeper at Ellon’s McDonald Club, and Brian, greenkeeper/mechanic, were selected by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA) which seeks volunteers during the year for the Open.

John, a past Scottish chairman of BIGGA, and his colleague applied for places and were delighted to be asked to take part, all the more so as the association had more than double the numbers they required.

Brian, who has worked at the Ellon club for around 14 years, said: “It is something that the greenkeepers are looking to get into - it’s very prestigious.”

The pair worked a 12-hour day starting at 7am and were among a squad of 60 greenkeepers assigned to each grouping which teed off over the four-day event.

Brian explained: “On the Wednesday we went to the course and met a representative from the R and A and the head greenkeeper, who gave us instructions on how they would like the bunkers raked.

“Because of the weather this year we also had a preparation team going out in the morning. We also had to look after the pitching and practice area.

“There is a draw and there is a greenkeeper with every game that goes out. It is not hard work but it is a long day, although it is worth it.”

John, at Ellon for 20 years, said the Lytham course was in perfect condition from tee to green, but there was a problem with water in some of the bunkers, due to the “water table” under the course.

He added: “One of my games was Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter on the Saturday, and then I was with Jim Furyk the following day.”

A highlight for Brian was accompanying 2010 Open winner Louis Oosthuizen on the Friday. Brian was lucky enough to catch the South African’s winning ball at St Andrews and he had been waiting for two years to get his signature. Oosthuizen was only too glad to oblige at Lytham.

And what of Adam Scott’s dramatic collapse over the finishing holes. Brian said: “We could only watch it on tv and we were preparing for a play-off. It was some finish and a tremendous atmosphere.”