ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Petoskey, Mich., is a long way from the British Isles, yet Mark O’Meara has his attentions split between the little hamlet in northern Michigan and the Home of Golf.
O’Meara’s 81-year-old father, Robert, is in intensive care with an infection in his abdomen. The infection, possibly stemming from an operation that he had after the Masters, also is affecting a heart valve. Though the prognosis is uncertain, the 1998 British Open champion has decided to play in this 150th anniversary Open Championship because he thinks that’s what his father would want.
“I’m the person I am because of my dad,’’ O’Meara said. “I respect my dad and love my dad. I know this championship in his mind is the greatest one of them all. So that’s why I felt like I needed to stay and play. He would want me here.”
O’Meara spent the previous days struggling with his decision, including some tears, but he realized that he needed to celebrate his father’s life.
For O’Meara, that thought process seemed to work. He opened with a 69 at the Old Course, beating his younger playing competitors and keeping himself still in the tournament.
“I hope that he can see what I shot today,” O’Meara said. “I can’t really talk to him because they won’t let phones be in there, but I’ve relayed messages through my sisters.”
The O’Mearas’ love of the Old Course goes back 18 years, when father and son took a trip to The Auld Grey Toon and played the Old Course.
With caddies in tow, O’Meara shot video of his dad playing the grounds that Old Tom Morris and Bobby Jones traveled to win major championships.
It’s that type of kinship the family has with St. Andrews and explains a lot of why Mark O’Meara is playing not only for himself but also for a man battling back in Michigan.
“I got to celebrate my father’s life,” O’Meara said. “I know that if he doesn’t make it, that my dad’s had a great life. He’s had a big impact on a lot of people. We all come to this point in our lives. I’m not going to sit out there and play, thinking, ‘Woe is me,’ because my dad’s sick. I’ve got to hope that, like you guys said, if I play well, it might help my dad. Make him fight. Hang in there.”