GOLF’S Open Championship got under way at Royal Lytham and St Annes today with veteran Barry Lane, having the honour of striking the first blow.
The 52-year-old led the field out, describing it as a ‘fantastic’ experience.
“This is my 15th Open, but never have I teed up first.
“It is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” added Lane, who qualified for The Open via St Annes Old Links.
Lane (teeing off at 6.30am, left), competing at next week’s Seniors Open, learned that he had the honour of teeing off while sitting in Detroit Airport, his flight home having been delayed 14 hours!
Lane had been due to be part of a two-ball, but there was a change following the withdrawal from The Open of Robert Karlsson.
He was not replaced, bringing the field down to 156.
In front of an enthusiastic band of followers, braving the grey, windy conditions, Lane, teed off at 6.30am and found the green. His playing partners Garth Mulroy (South Africa) and James Driscoll (United States) followed suit on the first at Royal Lytham, the only course on the Open rota which begins with a par three.
While Lane three-putted, Driscoll began in style with the first birdie of the Championship, while Mulroy was down in regulation.
Driscoll was in blistering form to get into this championship, winning international final qualifying at Gleneagles, Dallas in the United States.
Following this three-ball was a grouping that included Southport’s Matthew Baldwin, who would attract plenty of local support, as too would another of the early starters, Simon Khan, whose grandparents are from the South Fylde area.
Baldwin began with a par three.
But it was the big guns, like Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood that the crowds were waiting to see.