The 1977 Open Championship is widely recognised as one of the greatest ever staged in the event’s long and storied history. And it seems that readers of the Daily Record newspaper agree!
In conjunction with the European Senior Tour, Turnberry Hotel and EventScotland, the Record asked readers who attended that Open to recount their personal experiences of The Duel in the Sun as a prelude to next week’s Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Turnberry.
The response was incredible as the memories came flooding back – the battle for supremacy between Jack Nicklaus and his eventual conqueror, Tom Watson. The Record’s photo of the two gladiators walking off the 18th green 35 years ago sparked a flood of entries.
Today we print the best selection of those entries. After much deliberation, the winner is Stan Logan, of, Kilwinning, Ayrshire, who wins the superb prize of hospitality for two at the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex; overnight accommodation at the five-star Turnberry Hotel; a signed photo of Tom Watson and the opportunity to play the wonderful Ailsa Course on Patrons’ Day on Monday July 30. The five runners-up all receive four season tickets for the championship.
Here is Stan’s recollection of what he describes as the ‘Greatest battle in Open history’.
‘Turnberry - Saturday 9th July, 1977. I just turned 18 - my first Open. Lee Trevino, a real crowd pleaser with his non-stop banter autographed my arm. Glorious sunshine. Ailsa Craig lit up like a beacon! Nicklaus and Watson safely on the 18th. Atmosphere absolutely electric !
The crowds were immense, the heat was intense. Frantically looking for a vantage point, rounding the rear of the grandstand I looked up. Mmmmm, that looks like the place for me. I quickly scaled the rear of the grandstand right up to the top, clinging to the wire mesh for dear life !
Perched above all the spectators, watching the drama unfold before my eyes - what a view ! I distinctly remember Jack grabbing Tom as they went off. A real Golden Bear hug ! Seeing that picture in Saturday’s Daily Record recently, I said to my wife: ‘I WAS THERE - I SAW THAT!’
I feel so chuffed to have witnessed a real piece of golfing history.’
Kerr Girvan, Ayr, wins 4 season tickets for his entry:
‘Wednesday practice, Turnberry 1977. The Golden Bear strode off the 8th green, I am seven years old and I grin excitedly as he stops to sign an autograph.
My smiles turn to concern however, as Mr Nicklaus had not returned my pen! After him I scurry, bobbing and weaving through the entourage following him until I end up wide-eyed and open-mouthed on the championship tee of the most iconic hole in golf.
As I stood bewildered how anyone could hit a ball over what seemed to me to be the width of the Firth of Clyde I felt a hand on my shoulder...
Not a steward to usher me back beyond the ropes, but the towering lighthouse-like figure of Jack himself, who smiled, handed back my pen and allowed me to watch him launch his drive over the crashing waves, jagged rocks and into the heart of the ninth fairway.’
Steven McCreath, , Girvan, Ayrshire, recalls:
‘Turnberry - Ailsa Course - July 1977. I was there! As a crowd steward with the final group on the final day, and with the tournament reaching its frantic climax, I was instructed by the marshal in charge of the final hole that, after both players had played second shots, not to look back but to just run to the rope across the fairway on approach to green and lift it to arrest the stampede of spectators.
Shots hit, we took off for the rope but being a teenager of 14 at the time, of course I looked back only to be greeted by the sight of the massed crowd of spectators charging down the fairway.
What an absolutely terrifying sight to behold, but what a memory. Still raises hairs on the back of my neck to this day. Oh yes what a memory! Oh yes indeed, I WAS THERE.’
Robert Hunter, Lichfield, Staffordshire, looked back fondly on that historic day:
‘The final day of the 1977 Open at Turnberry remains etched in my memory forever. The honour of being present at such a momentous occasion was enhanced by the fact that I was being paid for the privilege. My employer had secured the hotel’s main hospitality suite and there was I rubbing shoulders with golf’s elite.
Seeing Jack Nicklaus walk downstairs and sit isolated on a bench out front, psyching himself up for the final round. Unforgettable! Nicklaus leads then Watson rallies to go one ahead on the 17th. The atmosphere was electric. I was surrounded by periscopes and folding stepladders with fans clamouring to view the final strokes up 18.’
Watson reaches the green with two fantastic shots. Nicklaus, in trouble, hits a glorious recovery from the gorse and holes from 40 feet for birdie. Watson matches him with a birdie putt from under three feet to win. Sheer magnificence!!
Douglas Smith, , Billericay, Essex, remembered the day as if it was yesterday:
‘Turnberry is my spiritual home thanks to 1977. I got my first job there as a 15 year old (lied about my age) on the stand at the 18th checking tickets. My dad’s friend, Jimmy McCubbin, was head greenkeeper. They went through the war together,
Although we lived in Airdrie I stayed with relatives in Girvan and walked to and from work each day into a world I had never known before. It made my mind up I wanted to work full time in that environment and became a greenkeeper for the next 30 years, working first in Scotland and then the next 17 years in Essex, coming back to either help or watch at every Open which has been held at Turnberry (twice as bunker raker).
Unfortunately my dad died three months after the ‘77 Open and never saw me carry on the job in the world he introduced me to indirectly. I have spent so many times there and where the family caravan was at Benane Head. My wife and family from Essex have fallen in love with that part of Scotland they have already told me the old folks home in Maidens that is where they intend to put me in my later life so I can still look over the links and have my ashes scattered on any part of the land nearby!’
The final word goes to Martin McGowan, Clarkston, Glasgow:
‘As a 15 year old boy, the significance was lost on me as I stood craning to get a look with my father. My memories were of constantly battling for a ‘good look’ and how excited my father was increasingly becoming.
What I do know now is the excitement of that day ignited my love of golf. I now have my own son of 16,and, like most fathers, love recounting tales of glories past and ‘I was there’ moments.
Your competition not only gives me the opportunity to return with the memory of my father, but to relive that time with my own son, an occasion he would cherish, but to hope that he gets that chance to appreciate for himself a taste of why golfing in Scotland can be blessed in Heaven.’
Thanks to everyone who took the time to provide their memories of Turnberry 1977. Tom Watson and many other Major Champions will be back at the Ailsa Course next week from July 26-29 with tickets available on the gate, priced £25 for any one day or £70 for a week long season ticket. Practice day on Wednesday, July 25 is £10.
Advance tickets to for The 2012 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex at Turnberry can now be purchased online at www.senioropengolf.com, where discounts and offers can also be found.
Hospitality packages for each of the four Championship days are also now available at £95 per person inc VAT, which includes admittance to the course along with a three-course lunch and glass of champagne in Turnberry’s signature restaurant, 1906, reserved parking, a Championship programme and a draw sheet.
American Russ Cochran won The 2011 Senior Open Championship at Walton Heath, England, holding off the challenge of former Open Champion Mark Calcavecchia, three-time Senior Open Champion Watson and 2010 United States Ryder Cup Captain Pavin.