St. Andrews International Father & Son Championship

I thought for this issue I would take a break from golf instruction and share with you my experiences when my son Tommy and I played in the International Father and Son Golf Tournament in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Our trip started in Atlanta where we made an uneventful flight to Washington, D.C. where we were to connect to London. Upon our arrival we were in high spirits and looking forward to our flight to London. This is where things really started to get crazy. The plane we were to connect to London on apparently had a problem with a window in the crew’s cabin and had to be replaced. This was going to put us back a few hours, no big deal. It turned out they did not have a replacement window or a plane at that time to London. We were then informed we would be staying the night in Washington.

One day shot

We left the next morning finally and upon arriving in London found out that there were no connecting flights to Edinburgh that day and had to spend the night in London.

Two days shot

By now we were really frustrated, as there were pre-tournament festivities and practice rounds going on that we were not able to attend.By now it was midnight and we were so frustrated we couldn’t sleep. I got out of bed and told Tommy to get dressed…I had a surprise for him.
I decided to hire one of those famous black taxis they have in London and take Tommy on a London tour and visit Paul McCartney’s house and Abbey Road Studios. He is a complete Beatle nut.

At 2:00 AM we were walking down Abbey Road all by ourselves. I’ll never forget looking at Big Ben at 2:35 AM. We finally got back to our hotel at 5:00 AM and got a good 2 hours sleep.Time is now running short as our tee time for the first round of the tournament is 12:20 PM and we are still at London Heathrow Airport at 8:00 AM with no flight.

I called St. Andrews and told the tournament officials of my plight. They called someone at British Midlands Airways and somehow got us a flight to Edinburgh. We landed at 10:30 and are still 1 ½ hours from St. Andrews.

Finally!

Fortunately the tournament sponsors have a limousine waiting at the airport to speed us to St. Andrews. We arrive at our hotel at 12 noon and are 20 minutes from our tee time. Without even time to check our bags we leave them at the hotel which fortunately is next to the first tee of the golf course. After leaving our bags at the door of the hotel to be taken to our room we are whisked to the first tee at 12:15. 5 minutes before our tee time.

Now imagine how we feel waiting and running all over the world for the tournament we have anticipated so long to compete in. We are tired, jet lagged and in a state of semi shock looking at all the Fathers and Sons rested and well prepared for the tournament. On top of it we missed 2 practice rounds.

This is where things start to get better. We are introduced to our caddies, “Dod” and “Kevin”. What great fellows! They have caddied for the likes of Palmer and Watson and are two of the finest caddies at St. Andrews. First they calm us down and get us in a good mental state and inform us that nothing less than winning the championship will do.

This round was played on the famous St. Andrews Jubilee course and much of the round is a little foggy but Tommy and I with the help of the caddies started reeling off birdies and finished the round with a best ball score of 8 under par. This gave us a 1 shot lead over teams from Malaysia and Canada. Obviously we were thrilled to be in this position considering what we had been through. Our caddies were very proud of us and escorted us to “Dunvegan’s” pub just up the street from the course to celebrate our good start.

After a good nights rest at the Rusacks Hotel and an excellent dinner we were ready for the second round on the New Course at St. Andrews. We were pretty calm until we were announced on the first tee as the tournament leaders. The gallery was fairly large consisting mainly of the townspeople from St. Andrews, who have watched many great competitions. This made us a little nervous, but Dod and Kevin came to the rescue and got our minds back on playing the course and forgetting everything else. The round progressed nicely with Tommy and I helping each other out whenever either was in trouble.

We got pretty hot and finished at 7 under par for the day and a two-day total of 15 under and a two shot lead. We were now feeling like we could win this thing and starting believing what our caddies had planned for us.

The last day dawned beautiful for St. Andrews in April. Partly cloudy skies and a temperature of 65 degrees by our 1:00 tee time. Today we were playing the most famous course in the world. “The Old Course”. We were paired in the final group with the Father and Son team from Japan who were in second place 2 shots back of us. These guys were serious. Not much conversation and you could tell they were determined to give us a run for our money. The son hit the ball very, very far but I noticed he could not hit it low. Everything was high and far. My caddie informed me that the winds would pick up in the afternoon and this would come back to haunt him. How right he was. They started out very well and Tommy and I slipped a little. By the 4th hole they had made up the 2 shot deficit and were high fiving each other all over the place and talking a lot in Japanese. Lord knows what they were saying.

It was at this time Dod pulls us over to the side and informs us he and Kevin have a lot of money bet on us and we better not lose. Just what we need...more pressure. He calmed us down and told us to keep playing our game and things would go our way because the wind was picking up and our ability for the both of us to hit low shots would be the difference. How right he was. Our competitors stayed even for the next 2 or 3 holes and then Tommy and I birdied 5 of the next 6 holes capping it with a birdie by Tommy at the famous “Road Hole” # 17. The lead was all of a sudden 5 shots as the Japanese team was getting blown all over the Old Course as the winds picked up. By now they weren’t saying much to each other or us as their chances slipped away.

All I can say is our caddies had big smiles on their faces as we approached the last hole of the tournament. Tommy’s caddie, Kevin even ran up the fairway on number 18 to get a better look at the scoreboard to make sure no other team had snuck up on us. He ran back waving his arms happily and we knew then all we had to do was stay on our feet and finish. Tommy was so pumped he cranked a 318 yard drive on the last hole in to the “Valley of Sin” in front of the green… about 45 yards past me. We birdied the last hole and looked up at the scoreboard and realized we had finished with a 5 shot victory.

The last tee shot

After congratulations and hugs from our caddies and insincere handshakes from the Japanese team Tommy and I had our own hug and breathed a sigh of relief. I personally was beat and just wanted to go across the street to our hotel and rest before the prize banquet that night.

Dod and Kevin would have none of this and informed us we were going to celebrate our victory first with them. I said go ahead with Tommy because I was tired. Next thing I know they are walking up the street with our clubs on their shoulders and heading to guess where? Dunvegan’s pub. They put Tommy and I in the corner on a couch with our clubs in plain view and announce to everyone there that we were the International Champions of the Father and Son Competition. To make a long story short we spent the next 2 hours celebrating with them and all the other caddies at St. Andrews, listening to wonderful golf stories. We were made to feel like we had just won the British Open. I can truly say these 2 hours were the most special I spent the whole time. I also got to see Dod and Kevin collect their winnings from our victory from many other caddies. Believe me they had a profitable week.

The banquet was that night at the St. Andrews Clubhouse. All contestants were attired in traditional Scottish Kilts. Tommy and I were presented with the trophy that will stay forever at St. Andrews in the trophy case with our names engraved on it.
At the banquet the master of ceremonies brought up an interesting point. He mentioned the most famous father and son duo at St. Andrews was Old and Young Tom Morris and the winners of this inaugural Father & Son Tournament was Old and Young Tom Chillemi. I sometimes think they had a hand in us winning this most prestigious tournament the way we did.

It was an experience I will never forget especially since I was able to enjoy it with my son on the most hallowed golf grounds in the world. Winning the tournament was a special bonus.

Hope you enjoyed this little story. Please keep me in mind if you are interested in a golf trip to Ireland or Scotland. I have access to all the courses including guaranteed times on the Old Course.I have been arranging these now for 15 years.My trip prices are guaranteed less than you can find anywhere.Please contact me for information.

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