ST ANDREWS, Scotland — How would you describe the look on amateur Barclay Brown’s face as he left the 18th green at the Old Course on Thursday after completing one of the most memorable rounds of his young career? Happy? Overjoyed? Surprised? Relieved?
Maybe a little of all.
If the 21-year-old Englishman had been able to sleep a restless night before his 6.46am tee time, his dreams probably wouldn’t have included an under-68 four in his first Open Championship, at the Home of Golf, with a birdie on the notoriously diabolical Road Hole. But it happened, and now Brown, a rising senior at Stanford, was trying to absorb the fact that he was competing at the 150th Open.
“Very happy with it. Very enjoyable,” Brown said. “Luckily I was able to keep it relatively stress-free.”
That’s not to say there was no stress at all. Especially on the first tee.
“I was incredibly nervous at the start,” said Brown, who included the night as he struggled to rest before the round. “Once I got through the first two holes, it was nice to calm down a bit and hit some good shots.”
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for Brown, who shot a four-under 140 to qualify for the 36-hole qualifier at Hollinwell Golf Club in England. From there, the 2021 GB&I Walker Cupper joined the England national team to train at Royal St. George’s, which wasn’t a bad place for him to work on his game before coming to St. Andrews. A links course that hosted the previous year’s Open Championship. It’s pretty much the place to prepare for the oldest tournament in golf.
Upon arriving in Scotland on Sunday, Brown, his family and his girlfriend stayed at a house in town, but Brown did little beyond the course. Try to prepare and stay focused. And manage expectations.
Mind you, there’s a small reputation to uphold for Brown, who hails from South Yorkshire near Sheffield, an area of England that has produced some recent big winners, Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters and Matt Fitzpatrick at the US Open. title in June. Fitzpatrick messaged Brown after qualifying in Hollinwell and was something of an inspiration.
Brown’s highlight came on the 17th hole, where he hit what he described as the best drive of the day, setting up a 131-yard approach with a gap wedge he jumped onto the green. From there he drilled a “lucky” 63-footer for the rare birdie on the Road Hole.
“I changed my line further left on the 18th, knowing I had that birdie,” he joked afterwards.
Brown, No. 46 in the latest World Amateur Golf Rankings, is coming off a college season in which he finished second in the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Regional. For his career, he has one victory (Cowboy Classic 2021) and eight top-10 finishes with an average of 71.71 strokes.
68 Thursday puts him in good company. In 2015 at St. Andrews, American Jordan Niebrugge shot a 67 to sit two off the lead. The lowest round shot by an amateur in an Open was Tom Lewis’ 65 in 2011 at Royal St. George’s.
At St. Andrews seven years ago, fellow amateur Paul Dunne made headlines when he split the lead entering the final round only to stumble with a closing 78.
“I just wanted to play the best I can,” Brown said. “Obviously I want to win the silver medal [for low amateur] but beyond that, just put four good rounds together.
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