Brian Gillespie: An American Amateur in England - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

May 27, 2005

Brian Gillespie: An American Amateur in England

Brian Gillespie of St. Davids GC travels to England to compete in the 2005 Amateur Championship of Britain. What follows is a journal of the trip as it unfolds told by close-friend and writer Rick McKissock.

Brian Gillespie, playing out of St. Davids Golf Club in Wayne, Pa., will be competing in the 2005 Amateur Championship of Britain beginning this Monday, May 30. The tournament is being played at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, 19 miles north of Liverpool on the coast of the Irish Sea. Royal Birkdale has hosted the professional British Open Championship eight times; the last being in 1998. The plethora of golf courses in the Southport area is considered “England’s Golfing Capital.”

Brian qualified for the tournament based on his performance in the 2004 U.S. Amateur Championship, where he finished in the final 32. Once he learned of this, it was just a matter of booking a flight and getting used to eating fish and chips.

The format of the tournament is similar to the U.S. Amateur Championship, with all 288 players qualifying over two days (18 holes each day); one round on the Royal Birkdale course and one on the adjacent Southport & Ainsdale course. The field will be cut to the 64 lowest scores and ties on Wednesday, June 1 to begin competing in match play at the Royal Birkdale course. Each match leading to the final will be 18 holes, with 36 holes for the final.

Unlike playing in tournaments in the Philadelphia area, and even elsewhere in the U.S., Brian’s expectations toward this tournament are a bit skewed. As you can expect, he is thrilled to be playing in this prestigious event, but that is almost drowned in the excitement of traveling to England for the first time.

“I’ve been told what to expect from a playability and weather standpoint. However, you can read and listen to everything and everyone until you are blue in the face. I am really looking forward to seeing how my game does in the English weather. I think weather will be the biggest factor that will determine how I play. The wind and rain can make a golf course terribly difficult, especially one that you are not familiar with. I expect my game to adjust well and to play well. I do have goals set for myself as I do with every tournament. I think I will have a much better idea as to how I think I will play after I play in my practice rounds on Saturday and Sunday.”

When asked about playing in “England’s Golf Capital,” he replied, “It’s kind of like going to Disney World for the first time. Everyone that has been there tells you that they loved it and had a great time riding the rides. But you can’t appreciate it until you experience it for yourself.”

Traveling with Brian will be Mike Peck, his friend and caddy and I, Rick McKissock, a long-time friend. The trip begins this Friday, May 27 as we fly from Philadelphia to Manchester, England, pick up our rental car and try not to crash as we drive on the left side of the road on our way to Southport.

Brian plans to play practice rounds on Saturday and Sunday as long as the jet lag doesn’t wear him out. As Mike will be there to help navigate Brian through the links course, I will not be attempting to coach nor assist Brian with his game. I will be there to support a good friend, share a pint at a pub, and enjoy my travels in England. Also, I will be photographing and chronicling Brian’s performance at the tournament, which you can follow along with here at Golf Association of Philadelphia Web site. Check back next week for updates on Brian’s performance in stroke play, his success in match play, and tales from our trip ‘cross the pond. He tees off for the opening round on Monday, May 30 at 8:17 AM BST – British Summer Time, 3:17 AM back in the States, and the second round at 12:51 PM BST on Tuesday, May 31. Get up early (or stay up late), put on some coffee, and wish Brian luck.

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