The Open is coming “home” to Kent – finally – but will local golfing fans be allowed to attend at Royal St George’s?
Royal St George’s in Sandwich was due to host the 149th Open Championship last July but the event was duly postponed because of the pandemic.
Twelve months on with golf courses reopening next week, The Open Championship’s return to the county is now looming largely on the horizon, and as the build up to the World’s greatest Golf tournament begins in earnest.
This year’s event will be the first played over the St George’s links since 2012 and fifteenth occasion overall, with the drama and excitement that has seen the likes of Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, Ben Curtis and most recently Darren Clarke leave Kent with the most famous Claret Jug in sport.
Four glorious days in July will be the highlight of the sporting year for many, but behind the scenes, the planning and preparations are well in hand albeit twelve months later than anyone would have hoped.
KSN has been speaking to Tim Checketts, the Club Secretary, about how the Club dealt with the Tournament’s postponement twelve months ago, and how preparations are going with the opening tee shots getting closer by the week…
“It’s been on the horizon for a while now,” Mr Checketts admitted to KSN this week. “We get back to golf next week when the course “reopens”, and then hopefully we’ll naturally progress to a great Open Championship in July as we’ll all need something to celebrate by then!”
“We were all pretty realistic this time last year it was pretty obvious that the Championship was going to be cancelled in 2020, but we’re all delighted that it’s coming back this year – delighted for us as a club, delighted for Kent, for Sandwich and everyone who has done so very much over the last five years making sure that the Championship comes back here – it’s been a real team effort with local authorities and others to get it back to Kent.”
The big question though remains just how many spectators will tread the Royal St George’s links during the third week in July. “It’s a good question,” the Club’s secretary confessed. “The R&A are working on a number of options still at the moment and it’s clear that we won’t know overnight!”
“But the infrastructure build will start next month, and I imagine sometime thereafter we will get a decision on the scale of the event. The pandemic is changing almost daily, and I think we’re going to have to remain very flexible.”
Mr Checketts then gave some real hope to those with tickets for the event when he told us, “Seeing other tournaments having fans in already is great and we’re hoping – there’s talk of having 20,000 in football stadiums at the end of May and we’ll see how that goes… There’s hopefully Wimbledon ahead of us – there’s lots of learning events to see how the “big” crowds can now be managed.”
“The big advantage that we have is that we have lots of space here at Royal St George’s – we’re out in the fresh air; there’s usually a bit of wind and so if we can sort out any distancing arrangements that are in place, there really shouldn’t be any reason that it can’t go ahead in July!”
Written by Mike Green