Diary of a debutant: Anthony Millar
If I didn't smile, I'd be crying. I need my A game... but it's more like Z
Sunday 18 July 2004
Anthony Millar, a 26-year-old professional attached to the Lymm club in Cheshire, came through regional and final qualifying to gain the last place in The Open. At Royal Troon he was reunited with his father, Steve, a sports journalist and 24-handicapper, who is covering the tournament for the "Daily Star On Sunday".
Sunday: I am beginning to get used to this sudden-death stuff. In regional qualifying at Little Aston in Birmingham I was in a play-off for just two places and I managed to get through at the second extra hole. In final qualifying at Glasgow Gails I shot 70 yesterday and 72 today. I tied for fourth place, and as there were four spots available I was in a sudden-death play-off. The second extra hole was a par three, and when I knocked my tee-shot to within four feet my opponent conceded. My dad took the flag from the flag stick and it will take pride of place back home. He gave me a hug and we were both in tears.
Monday: This was my third attempt at final qualifying and I finally made it. Nothing else matters. Before, I had failed at Carnoustie and Sandwich. I had no gear and no digs but my sponsor, Wilson, came up trumps. They gave me a whole range of new clothes and equipment. I hardly slept. Everything's in a whirl. The phone has been red hot with text messages from my mates and I've run out of credit.
Tuesday: I thought I had better look the part, so I went for a haircut at TJ's in Irvine. My mate Mark and his girlfriend Sarah drove up from Warrington just to have dinner with me and my girlfriend Clare. And then they drove back, a round trip of about eight hours. I had a practice round with Jonathan Cheetham, a pal from Mobberley who also came through final qualifying. When you walk into the clubhouse and see your name on a locker you get the feeling that you have arrived. It gave me a real buzz, but I'm determined not to be overawed. I tell myself I won my place on merit and I deserve to be here. My earliest memory of The Open is Nick Faldo winning at Muirfield in 1992. I'm living the dream. The sun is out, it's a beautiful course. I'll try to do it justice.
Wednesday: Thanks to Wilson I'm staying in the only five-star B & B in Troon. It's magnificent. The bed is so big that when I leave it Clare doesn't know I've gone. I had a practice round on my own. At least I was on my own until I got to the 17th. This bloke came up to me and said: "Hi. I'm Mike Weir, can I play with you?'' I can't believe I'm playing with a man who won the Masters. He's a complete gent, friendly and helpful. He said if there was anything he could do I only have to ask. It put a spring in my step. I'd been a bit nervous but my caddie, Andrew Cornes, was a big help. If I can just play my way around like I do at Lymm I'll be all right. The trouble is, Troon is very different.
Thursday: I'm playing in The Open with Nicolas Colsaerts and Grant Muller and I am the last player in the entire field to tee off in the first round. I can't wait to get started, but we are not off until 4.21 in the afternoon. Bob Torrance gives me some advice. He tells me to stay in my pit until at least 11.30 and then go for a long walk on the beach. Anything to take my mind off it. Before going to the course I watched a few holes on television and then spent a long time on the practice range. Some kids even asked for my autograph. On the tee I had a last puff of my fag and a swig of water. I had always wanted to meet Ivor Robson, the official starter, and when he announces my name it's do or die. I managed to hit a good drive which ran between two bunkers and I started with a par. I got a bogey at the second but a birdie at the third and I go to the turn in level par. A triple bogey at the 11th was very sore. Apart from my dad, my mum Sylvia and my sister Nicola, who's eight months pregnant, are following me, as well as friends from Warrington. I have to pinch myself when I glance at the big yellow scoreboards and see my name. The back nine is tough. Going down the 18th it is way past nine o'clock and I wave to the hundred or so spectators who are left on the course. I come in with a 78 but it is a day I will never forget. I am going to have a few beers and a good night's kip.
Friday: We're off at 11.10am in the second round. I am determined to smile my way around Troon and try to concentrate on one shot at a time, but it is difficult. I begin to hit some bad shots because I am not committing. It's also a lack of experience. The biggest prize I had ever won was £690 for finishing second in the Leeds Cup, a Northern PGA tournament. Also I had never played at Troon before. The crowd are fantastic and I keep telling myself to enjoy it. If I didn't smile I would be crying. This might be my only chance of playing in The Open. The 12th was horrendous. I went from bunker to bunker and also fluffed a few chips. I ended up by pitching in for a very good quadruple-bogey eight. I need my A game but it's more like Z. At least down the 18th I hit a good drive and a nice eight-iron, but I left my putt for a birdie just short. When I see I scored 86 and the boy with the scoreboard shows I'm 22 over par, I ask him if he can change it. I've missed the cut by 19 shots. It's not nice, but at least I was consistent. I went out in 43 and came back in 43. I'm going to have a few beers and watch some golf before going home. I'll watch the rest of it on telly. Next week it's back to reality and a pro-am where the first prize will be £600. It's going to be weird after this. The whole experience has been unbelievable and has made me more determined to try it again. Next year The Open is at St Andrews, and I won't have to go through regional qualifying. I'm going to come back bigger and better, but not in the weight department. I have this fantastic memory of getting up and down from a bunker at the Postage Stamp. I'll be back. Definitely.
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