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Wind-blown flags

Don Thames, Rancho Murieta Country Club's golf pro, is filing occasional pieces about the experience of playing in the British Senior Open, which began Thursday. Photos are by Carole Thames.

By Don Thames, Rancho Murieta Country Club golf pro
Bridgend, Wales – Today’s round at Royal Porthcawl was definitely near the top of the list of the most difficult scoring conditions I have ever faced. Unfortunately, my time of 11:10 was played with eight holes of rain. The later pairings did not get a break from the high winds, as the breeze of 30 mph was constant all day long. I played eight to ten two-iron shots and many of them were approaches to four pars. On some of the crosswind holes, I had to start the ball 75 yards left of the center of the fairway. This is a fearful complication when the sea is on the left marked by an out of bounds fence. It was an extreme example of trust if a player endeavored to hit the fairway. The approach shots were no different. The short side of the green is always guarded by pot bunkers that any faint shot is funneled into. I played a six iron 50 yards left of the flag on one par three. I found playing directly into the wind preferable to playing the treacherous cross breeze.

The first hole plays directly into the wind at 425 yards downhill. I hit a solid tee shot and a two iron onto the front of the green some 70 feet from the cup. One of my playing companions (a bloke from St. Andrews) could not reach the green and left his second some 60 yards short. He proceeded to putt the ball to within a foot of the cup. They know that shot! Yes, it was downhill, the turf was shaved, but the green itself looked like a lunar surface with its magnificent rolls, bumps and undulations. I lagged it down there nicely (for me) missed the second and started with a bogey. Then the rain began.

First tee

Don Thames, center, on the first tee.

I was well prepared except for the fact that my rain pants were resting comfortably dry in my locker. I thought I had placed them in my golf bag. That faux paux will shock no one who knows me. Umbrellas became immediately useless, as the wind and rain overwhelmed them.

All told, I played well today save some untidiness around the greens and a couple of loose swings. There is a definite bittersweet element relative to scoring eight over par. That we are here having the time of our lives playing in the Open Championship is the sweet part. The high score is bitter. However, long ago I learned to put the game into perspective. For one thing, it is a game. In simple terms it is one that is played with a ball and a stick. In today’s conditions I felt like I was playing a feathery with niblicks and mashies. It was a day to be brought down to Earth, but both Carole and I are in the clouds about living out this opportunity.

I was fortunate to secure a young caddie from Bridgend, Wales named Dan. Dan is a strapping, handsome and astute boy. I prefer young caddies because of their good attitude. They have not yet been soured by a lifetime of the menacing double bogey. He gave accurate yardages, good lines and informed me the whereabouts of the dastardly pot bunkers. Dan will be competing in the Wales National Amateur Match Play Championship this Sunday, which means I will have to find another caddie if I am to make the cut. Carole may be up to the task; she is good with the yardage book!

Don and caddie Dan

Don Thames and his caddie, Dan.

Carole has been her normal self. She makes sure I have everything I need in terms of food, water, proper clothing and of course she is my agent and cheerleader. She had to trudge back and gather my rain pants from my locker when the rain came. What a trouper!

There is much more to tell but also much more for us to do at the moment. We hope you enjoy some of the photos and videos.

I just saw Bernhard Langer in the lobby. He will sleep on the lead. What else is new?

Don and Carole

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Video of Don Thames on the first tee

Carole Thames captures Don Thames on the first tee. You'll hear the wind (plenty of wind) and then the introduction: "From the USA, Don Temms," pronounced like Great Britain's the River Thames.

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