Lytham led the way in golf

Seve Ballesteros with the Open claret jug at Lytham in 1979.

Seve Ballesteros with the Open claret jug at Lytham in 1979.

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IT is remarkable to consider the changes made to The Open Championship from the 1960s to the modern era.

When Tony Jacklin competed in the 1963 Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes – six years prior to his historic Claret Jug triumph at the course – he finished joint-30th and picked up the princely sum of £57 in prize money!

Another notable fact about that ‘63 Open was that it was only scheduled over three days – Wednesday to Friday, with two rounds on Friday.

It only stretched into a Saturday because Bob Charles and Phil Rodgers had tied at the top of the leaderboard after four rounds – and the play-off was over 36 holes, Kiwi Charles prevailing.

Even though 1963 seems to some like the dark ages, that event at Lytham ushered in some significant changes, though the admission price was a mere 50p, and only a quid for the final day.

In 1963, fairways were fenced off for the first time to prevent spectators causing chaos, as had happened at Royal Troon a year earlier.

Stands sprang up around the course, and there were the first signs of corporate activity.

In addition, in ‘63 there was the novelty of mobile scoreboards – and the caddies wore bibs to identify which golfer’s bags they were carrying.

In fact, Lytham Opens earned a reputation for innovation.

The first Open to be staged there – Bobby Jones’ year 1926 – had a regional qualifying process for the first time.

All these facts are unearthed in an excellent article on Lytham Opens in the newly-published R&A Golfers’ Handbook 2012*, penned by Keith Mackie.

In this indispensable guide to all things golf, there is a tribute to a man who made Lytham his own, Seve Ballerestos.

It is penned by Mike Aitken, who recalls the Spaniard’s Open victories there in 1979 and 1988.

On the eve of the 1979, Ballesteros got advice from the 1967 champion Roberto De Vicenzo.

“You have the hands,” the Argentinian observed. “Now play with your heart.”

Which is precisely what Ballesteros did, not just in ‘79 and ‘88, but for the rest of his life, until his death last year.

Dave Musgrove was on the bag for Ballesteros, who was dubbed the ‘car park champion’ for his adventures off the fairways.

Musgrove said it was all part of the Spaniard’s grand strategy.

He explained: “Seve found loop-holes in the rough, if you like.

“There was no fluke to Seve playing out of the rough in 1979.

“He was not as lucky as some people think – it was all well planned.”

Though Ballesteros was arguably the most naturally gifted golfer of all time, he also put in the hard yards.

He once said: “Me, I am like a pianist.

“Even when I’m not playing in a tournament, I practise for six or seven hours a day.”

*Published by MacMillan, £30.

>> Tomorrow, the European Tour moves to India for the Avantha Masters, when home golfer SSP Chowrasia will defend his title.

In America, the main event is the Northern Trust Open in California.