ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Jason Bohn was only going to hit a few golf balls, just to get acclimated to the jet lag. Then he stepped foot onto the Old Course, soaked in the aura of the beloved links, basked in a glorious late-afternoon sun, and came to the realization that he had only one choice.
“I said to myself, ‘How can I not play?’ So, we’re going to go tee it up,” Bohn said while waiting for caddie Billy Spencer to get back from his registration duties. A few minutes later, Spencer was back with yardage books for he and his player – 20 pounds each, “not a bad deal,” Bohn said – and then they had just one dilemma.
“How do we get to the range to warm up?” Bohn asked.
And why shouldn’t he have inquired? He is, after all, seeing the Old Course for the first time. Having qualified for his first British Open, Bohn was part of the large contingent that took charters from the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill.
Just stepping inside the boundaries of the Old Course made Bohn forget how tired and how long a trip it had been. He just had to tee it up.
But it made him appreciate the efforts of the John Deere Classic tournament officials even more.
“It was great. I’m not sure how I’d have gotten here without the charter,” Bohn said. “I may have had to have left three weeks ago.”
He was kidding, although the trip had hit one snag. Not with the air travel, which consisted of a 60-seat MD83 and a 48-seat Boeing 737 to accommodate the more than 100 passengers (players, caddies, family members). No, the delay came thanks to a manhole eruption that meant the bus ride from Edinburgh to St. Andrews took three hours.
Still, pleasant weather and knowing they had nearly five hours of daylight made the players forget that turmoil. So there went charter guys Bohn, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Richard S. Johnson, D.A. Points, K.J. Choi, Jason Dufner and Glen Day out to the course.
In all, 23 players from the John Deere field took the charter. Another two players who had originally committed to the tournament, only to withdraw with medical concerns – Sean O’Hair and Ricky Barnes – also flew over, as did J.L. Lewis and Rocco Mediate.
Lewis played in the Deere as a former winner, and while he’s not in the British Open, he is playing in next week’s Senior British Open. Mediate also played in the Deere and is at the Old Course to work for ESPN.
Seats aboard the charters cost $1,250, which went to a JDC charity fund.
It was well worth the price, Bohn said, as he looked out upon the wide expanse of the first and 18th fairways. His first round over the Old Course was going to be alongside Spencer, who is also seeing the hallowed grounds for the first time. That’s not an ideal combination, so Bohn said, “I studied that practice sheet (for Tuesday) long and hard.”
He penciled himself in next to Vijay Singh and Robert Allenby, who have combined for seven British Opens at St. Andrews “and who knows how many Dunhill Links,” Bohn said. “You know they have a lot of knowledge to share.”
Sounds like a veteran move by an Old Course rookie.