2nd and 17th Fairways, West Links

Watson is thrown off course
at North Berwick

When Muirfield hosts the Open Championship the population of North Berwick doubles for the duration of the tournament and the town comes alive with all nationalities. Here are a number stories from 1992 when American John Cook missed an unbelievably short putt on the penultimate hole to gift the championship to Nick Faldo. It was less than two feet, and the next day one newspaper ran the headline 'Cook chokes on greens'.

The West Links that year was used as one of the qualifying courses and as such was closed to everyone except competitors.

As dusk fell at the end of the first day, the head greenkeeper Stewart Greenwood, himself a good golfer was making his way off the course when he spotted someone hitting shots to the 16th green. The figure he quickly recognised as Tom Watson who explained he had been watching from his hotel room window just a few feet away and had become so intrigued watching the hopeful qualifiers struggle to negotiate their second shot to the green and wanted to have a go himself. Very politely, but firmly, the five times Open winner was told he had to quit because the course was closed, Tom, who 12 years earlier had been thrown off Muirfield, graciously acceded to Greenwood's request to leave the course.

Dan Quayle has now left the Building
Former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle, completed his round on the West Links, and returned to the locker room of the North Berwick Golf Club. Only to find he had left his dress shoes in the transport vehicle which wasn't scheduled to return for another hour. Entering the clubhouse bar with only his socks on his feet, he was spotted by the barmaid and promptly asked to leave the premises as he was improperly dressed. The Vice President sat on a bench outside the clubhouse while his friends enjoyed the delights of the 19th hole.

A Night on the Town
with Debbie Couples

Sam Torrance always ready to entertain his American guests during the 1992 Open, invited Fred Couples and John Daly to experience some Scottish hospitality at a local pub called the Quarterdeck in North Berwick. Also in the party were Mark Calcavecchia, Craig Stadler and Debbie Couples.

The evening progressed with outrageous amounts of money changing hands at the pool table and John Daly in full flight, consuming a cocktail of spirits from a pint glass. Debbie Couples by this time had too much to drink and began dancing to the sound system.

  Encouraged by the locals she jumped onto a table and began cavorting in front of the home crowd with certain items of her clothing being jettisoned, much to Fred's annoyance. At this point The Walrus stepped in, dragged her off the table and bundled her into a car.

Torrance walked away with the pool money and the next day Fred Couples failed to make the halfway cut. His marriage was over and Debbie would never be seen again upstaging her husband when he won tournaments, charging onto the green in a short mini-skirt and high heels, hugging and kissing him. Sadly, in May 2001 Debbie took her own life, after falling from a 70-foot building near Los Angeles, she was 43 years old.

Ben Crenshaw in the years between his two US Masters titles was not granted an exemption to the 1992 Open and had to prequalify over the West Links. Ben failed to pass the test but was full of praise for the course, especially how the natural contours of land bordering the seashore had suffered little in the way of tampering throughout it's long history.

Phil Mickelson was also in the qualifying field, he had relinquished his exempt spot as reigning US Amateur Champion by turning professional, but unfortunately he also failed the test over the West Links, and was a spectator at Muirfield.

Jesper Who?

  Crenshaw and Mickelson fail to Qualify over the West Links

Many of the great names- Harry Vardon, Walter Hagen, Tom Watson, Henry Cotton, Peter Thomson, Greg Norman and Payne Stewart have all played the course, while a rare distinction is that it is a course on which the great Jack Nicklaus has acted as a caddie - for his son in the Open qualifying round.

Following the result of the final qualifying round on the West Links in 1992, it was found that ten players were tied for the last three remaining places at Muirfield. One of the players involved in the sudden death play-off was an unknown Swede called Jesper Parnevik. At the first extra hole, a 328 yard par 4, Parnevik's second shot was too strong, running over the green on to the beach. He miss hit his third shot into an unplayable lie, and then stormed off towards the clubhouse with his girlfriend running after him, and the referee shouting ' come back, come back '

Fish and Chips for the Duke

The professional at North Berwick is David Huish, a former captain of the British PGA and Ryder Cup committee member. Huish met His Royal Highness the Duke of York, an avid golfer, in the early 1990's and again at the Ryder Cup at Oakhill in 1995. Where he suggested to the Duke, that he would enjoy golfing over the West Links. Prince Andrew duly turned up for a game, and the club staff prepared a special meal for the Royal visitor. However the Prince, unaware such elaborate culinary provisions had been prepare while he was on the links, settled for a golfers bar lunch of soup, fish and chips and sponge pudding washed down with 'mineral water'. Prince Andrew has returned to play the course on several occasions and has accepted an Honorary Life Membership.

The Trophy Returns

The massive silver trophy awarded to the eighteen year old Spanish golfer Sergio Garcia, winner of the British Amateur Championship at Muirfield in June 1998, provoked more than usual interest when he brought it back to the Point Garry Hotel in North Berwick where he was staying. It was noted that Robert Maxwell who won the trophy in 1903 and 1909, built the Point Garry Hotel as his house in 1898, and it was quite a coincidence for the trophy to return to the hotel after all those years. Garcia won the British Boys Amateur Championship at Saunton in 1997 and turned pro after being leading amateur at the Augusta Masters in 1999.

Enter Vijay, US Master and Scots bouncer.

It was in 1987 when the Open was held at Muirfield that Vijay Singh arrived in Scotland from Fiji hoping to make his name in the only major staged outside America. With only 3,000 in his pocket he spent a summer playing the qualifying courses and in order to make ends meet, worked as a bouncer at a nightclub in Edinburgh. Asked if he was ever involved in a fight the Fijian replied " No, I could handle myself. I saw a few switchblades but no trouble. I would work from 10pm till 4am, sleep until nine, then go and practise at North Berwick and Gullane. I played every day for a month and still missed out on the Open." Singh eventually went to play in Africa and won his first event, the 1988 Nigerian Open. He joined the European Tour winning all over Europe as well as America claiming his first major success at the USPGA in 1998 and the rest is history.

[17th West Links, North Berwick]
17th Green West Links, North Berwick
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