Seniority no bar to Slammin' Snead's swing

Among the former winners to shine in the Past Champions' Challenge was the 88-year-old American making a belated return

The Open is not complete without at least one American announcing he would not be gracing the Championship with his presence. It was ever thus. When Sam Snead took possession of the claret jug on the Old Course 54 years ago, it had cost him $2,000 to make the journey and he won $600. The Royal and Ancient asked him if he would be returning to defend the title. Snead replied: "You're kidding."

The Open is not complete without at least one American announcing he would not be gracing the Championship with his presence. It was ever thus. When Sam Snead took possession of the claret jug on the Old Course 54 years ago, it had cost him $2,000 to make the journey and he won $600. The Royal and Ancient asked him if he would be returning to defend the title. Snead replied: "You're kidding."

Well, he's back now, at 88 the oldest swinger in town. Yesterday Snead competed in the Past Champions' Challenge, a unique four-hole commemoration of the game at the home of golf. If ever an event was bound to end in cheers it was this one. Snead did not receive $600 but he did get the freedom of the links and a silver plate. Both are invaluable. As he did not defend the title in 1947 it can only be assumed that the claret jug remained in St Andrews.

Snead, who played with Nick Faldo, Ian Baker-Finch and Justin Leonard, alighted from his buggy going down the 18th and posed for photographers on the Swilken Bridge. The huge crowds gave him another round of applause when Slammin' Sam did a little tap dance.

He's a tough old boy. A few years ago he arrived at Augusta National, where he is an honourary starter at the Masters, having survived a serious car smash. He had cuts to his face, blood all over his shirt and a knee the size of a football. When he bumped into Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear - who can't see further than his nose - said: "Hi Sam how are you doin'?" "I'm doin' just fine," Sam replied. "You're certainly looking great," Nicklaus said.

There was, inevitably, an omission from the 22 past champions. Arnold Palmer, who made what everybody thought was his valedictory journey down the 18th fairway in 1995, was indeed invited to yesterday's stroll down memory lane but declined. There was a school of thought that suggested that the 70-year-old Palmer would not return because he did not receive an exemption into the Championship proper. The R&A had waived the rules so he could play here five years ago.

Yesterday Peter Dawson, the secretary of the R&A, attempted to explain Arnie's absence. "Unfortunately, Arnold said he was not able to come. This was obviously a considerable blow, given Arnold's history at The Open and his role in developing the Championship into what it is today. I obviously went back to him, both in person and by letter several times, but I was unable to persuade him to come, which I personally regret and I am very sorry he's not here."

The R&A denied that Palmer had suggested he should play in the 129th Open. Dawson produced a letter from Palmer which said: "I appreciate the continued interest in my attendance at The Open and I really would like to be there but I'm afraid I just won't be able to make it. Even though I won't be there this time I'm looking forward to returning to St Andrews in the near future." So why didn't he come? "I think he had personal memory reasons and the death of his wife, and so on, which were affecting him," Dawson added. He said it had crossed their minds to give Palmer a place in the field but went on: "It was considered only very briefly. There is a great competition for places with many young players trying to get in. Our exemption criteria have been in place for a long time. This is not an invitational event. It is a major championship."

The group of Tom Weiskopf, Tom Lehman and Paul Lawrie won the Champions' Challenge at two-under par - they played the first, second, 17th and 18th - finishing a stroke in front of Snead's group.

Baker-Finch, who twice drove out of bounds at the first during The Open here in 1995, did so again yesterday. However, the Australian came home in style. He had a birdie three at the Road Hole, the 17th, and another three at the last where he drove the green.

"That was something special," Snead said. "I've never had applause like that. I appreciate it." Tiger Woods, 64 years Sam's junior, will have to wait... at least until Sunday.

Each competitor was presented with an embossed certificate and a silver bag tag from the St Andrews Links Trust, the body which manages the six courses at St Andrews and who bestowed the freedom of the links, a rare honour. The first recipient was the Reverend Harcourt Just, who received it in the 1940s. The only person to get the freedom of the links for a golfing achievement, prior to yesterday, was Alex Soutar, a St Andrean who was the Scottish Boys' champion in 1962.

The idea for the Past Champions' Challenge came from Lee Trevino. He suggested they should play six holes rather than four but then it was realised that some of the older players might not get round before dusk.

The winning team received £40,000 to present to a charity of their choice. Not that the occasion was taken ultra-seriously. When Faldo found the notorious bunker in front of the green at the 17th, he picked up his ball and threw it towards the flag.

Nicklaus, who played with Tom Watson and Roberto de Vicenzo, had a three at the 17th but then drove out of bounds to the right at the 18th. It was touch and go whether Nicklaus would play. His mother is seriously ill and the Golden Bear himself was not feeling on top form.

There was only one blot on the horizon - a huge crane hovering above the Tom Morris golf shop by the 18th green. The R&A asked the contractors to remove it during The Open but were quoted a sum of £20,000 for doing so. The crane stays.

Sport
File photo of Lewis Hamilton celebrating becoming World Champion after victory in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as he was made favourite to become the first motor racing winner of Sports Personality of the Year since Damon Hill
sportGareth Bale, Carl Froch and Kelly Gallagher also in the mix for award
News
Japan's Suntory Beverage & Food has bought GlaxoSmithKline's Lucozade and Ribena
news
News
A tongue-eating louse (not the one Mr Poli found)
newsParasitic louse appeared inside unfilleted sea bass
News
The illusionist believes hypnotism helped him to deal with the lack of control he felt growing up
people'It’s not that people react badly to it – they really don't care'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleJack Monroe accuses David Cameron of 'misty-eyed rhetoric'
News
Tana Ramsay gave evidence in a legal action in which her husband, Gordon, is accusing her father, Christopher Hutcheson, of using a ghost writer machine to “forge” his signature
peopleTana Ramsay said alleged discovery was 'extremely distressing'
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Windsor and Aljaz Skorjanec rehearse their same-sex dance together on Strictly Come Dancing
TV
Money
Anyone over the age of 40 seeking a loan with a standard term of 25 years will be borrowing beyond a normal retirement age of 65, and is liable to find their options restricted
propertyAnd it's even worse if you're 40
Arts and Entertainment
Perhaps longest awaited is the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with Brazil’s Walter Salles directing and Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen as the Beat-era outsiders
books
Arts and Entertainment
theatreSinger to join cast of his Broadway show after The Last Ship flounders at the box office
Life and Style
fashion'To start singing with Pharrell is not that bad, no?'
News
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible