Open Diary: Airline test causes jumbo disruption

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The Independent Online

Golfers at Royal Troon are accustomed to coping with wind, rain and even the occasional drone of a plane taking off or landing at the adjacent Prestwick International Airport. But the bombardment of noise from aircraft yesterday was something else altogether.

Golfers at Royal Troon are accustomed to coping with wind, rain and even the occasional drone of a plane taking off or landing at the adjacent Prestwick International Airport. But the bombardment of noise from aircraft yesterday was something else altogether.

In fact, it was one particular aircraft, a jumbo 747, that was responsible for the racket. It took off, circled and landed 24 times during the afternoon alone as part of a pilot training routine known as "circuit and bumps". As it flew over the course, the noise was so loud that players giving press conferences, including Sergio Garcia, had to stop talking until it passed, while some out on the course were forced to cover their ears with their hands.

The pilot responsible for yesterday's din, we can reveal, was Captain Alan Nicholson, who was running tests for an Iceland-based airline, Air Atlanta. He's a friend of the airport's spokesman, Eddie Allison, and Capt Nicholson won't be back today.

"It's quite normal for us to host tests," Eddie told us. "But I can assure you we've turned down business during the Open, at a cost of between £5,000 and £10,000 per day. It's a good neighbour policy, and a small contribution to the local community."

While everyone involved with the golf will breathe a sigh of relief at that, Eddie cannot promise total silence over the next four days. Normal traffic of around 30 planes a day will still use the airport, while tomorrow, at around 1.30pm, an Antonov 124 ­ the world's second largest plane ­ will be taking off on a freight delivery.

"It shouldn't create too much disturbance," Eddie says. "We'll be telling the pilot to keep his turn tight and to stay as far from the golf as possible."

It was the outstanding topic of conversation at last week's Scottish Open, among the lady scorers at least. It could yet become an issue here. Not to put too fine a point on it, we're talking nipples. They were too prominent on the bonnie banks, apparently, because the scorers' shirts, provided by adidas, were so thin they were almost transparent.

"When we turned up to collect our uniforms there was a notice about it," said our source, speaking on behalf of "all the local ladies of a certain age" who worked as volunteers at Loch Lomond. "They advised we wore flesh-coloured underwear, so a group of us went out and bought some especially, at great expense. But there was still a nipple issue for a few of the ladies, which isn't that surprising given the cold."

The solution came, apparently, through the purchase of "petals", which are small bits of material, manufactured for the specific purpose of covering nipples in just these situations. "Thank goodness for The Cat's Pyjamas," said our source, referring to the local lingerie shop that came up with the goods that saved the blushes.

So can we expect a repeat of nipple-gate at Troon? Adidas, after all, have traditionally provided the scorers' shirts. "They're not doing it this year," a tournament spokesman said. "The scorers are providing their own clothes."

"Is that because of the nipples at Loch Lomond?" we asked, unafraid to make tits of ourselves in the name of research.

"I couldn't say for certain," came the reply. "But in all probability, no."

Glad we've got that covered.

To say that Colin Montgomerie has had a fractious relationship with the press is a bit like saying Tiger Woods has been off his game. Monty knows that he's regarded by the media as wonderful on Wednesday, tetchy on Thursday, furious on Friday, sulky on Saturday and suicidal on Sunday. Yet he still rocked up on Tuesday night to be the guest speaker at the Association of Golf Writers annual dinner, where the audience was 80 per cent hacks (and hackers). Not only that, but he kept his audience royally entertained with a stream of self-deprecating gags, several at the expense of his recent split from his wife, Eimear.

"I've had an invitation to spend two weeks in the jungle," he said, referring to a plea to appear on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. "It came from the wife's solicitors."

Another target was Prince Andrew, who was present at the dinner in his capacity as captain of the R&A. "He's always last to the bar at the 19th hole," Monty said, implying his royal mate was tight. "But then I'd be upset if I had to part with a picture of my mother."

Monty also talked about his father, James, who was the secretary at Royal Troon until 1997. "Fathers can be embarrassing," he said, looking at the Prince. "But then you'd know all about that."

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