Questionnaire: Andy Francis: St George's ball-spotter

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The Independent Online

How did you become a ball spotter at the Open?
I'm a member of the Kent Police Golf Society, which provides stewards for the first tee, personnel to staff the crossings there and spotters for the first hole. They asked for volunteers four months ago. Forty of us got the job, as volunteers, although we did get an official top and a hat each, an £8 meal voucher each day and access to the tournament.

Is it good fun?
Excellent. It's nice to see the top players struggle for a change. They make it look so easy the rest of the time.

How do you learn to be a spotter?
There was a briefing by people who'd done it before who tell you the probable lengths and locations for mis-hit shots.

Is it difficult?
It can be, because you can't see the ball as it's hit. A marshal on the tee raises a white flag, indicating direction, as soon as the player's teed off. But you only see it for the last 10 or 15 yards. We see about 90 per cent of the balls.

So losing some, like Tiger's last week, was not that surprising?
It happens. But remember we find a lot too. Without spotters, just players on their own, you'd probably be losing about 10 balls an hour during a tournament like the Open.

Have you been hit by a ball?
Yes. On Friday. By a shot from an Australian guy called Cameron Percy, who was playing in the penultimate three-ball of the day. My fellow spotter shouted that it was coming my way. It landed, bounced and hit me in the side of the head. It wasn't especially painful, for me at least. The guy got a bogey.

Do you play?
Off two. I've finished in the top 10 at the British Police Championships on two occasions.

If you could play a foursome with any three people, who would you choose and why?
Tiger Woods, as the best in the world. Nick Faldo, as the best British golfer of my lifetime. And Britney Spears, because it'd be nice to see her pick the ball out of the hole.

Which is your favourite course?
I've been to Valderrama, which looks great, but I've not played there. Probably the best course I've played is Royal St George's, or else a links in Northern Ireland at Port Stewart.

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