In land of Open glory at the 18th

We're in charge . . . Leyland Golf Club volunteers on the 18th at Royal Birkdale
We're in charge . . . Leyland Golf Club volunteers on the 18th at Royal Birkdale

The world’s top golfers won’t be the only familiar faces to TV viewers in Lancashire as the Open Championship reaches its climax this weekend.

Dressed in eye-catching orange and dotted around the tee, fairway and green of the all-important 18th hole will be 46 marshals from Leyland Golf Club.

The volunteers will be there to keep order on the show hole of Royal Birkdale - the place where the world famous claret jug will be won or lost sometime tomorrow.

“This is as good as it gets - the 18th at The Open,” said club chairman Steve Fisher who is controller for the final hole for the entire championships. “It’s a proud moment for all of us and a very proud moment for our golf club.”

Leyland is one of a number of North West clubs who have sent marshals to Southport this week - Penwortham is another. The fact that Steve and his team have been marshalls at Birkdale in the past for the Seniors’ Open and the Ladies’ Open helped land them the supreme honour of looking after the 18th.

The club has provided 46 staff for the entire week to cover practice rounds and the four days of the tournament. “Some of us have done The Open in the past, but not on the 18th hole,” said Steve. “This is special. We are all getting a big buzz out of it. It’s not like work, getting up close to the biggest stars in the game.

“We are all big golf fans and to be inside the ropes with the guys we watch on TV all year is a fantastic privilege.”

Planning began last November when the invitation arrived at the clubhouse in Leyland. While the club has provided 46 volunteers, it could have sent even more, such was the interest amongst members. The marshals work a two shift system, half starting at 10.15am and the others taking over at around 3.15.

Two marshals are in attendance on the 18th tee to keep order. More are stationed along the fairway to act as ball-spotters and prevent excited spectators from spilling onto the playing areas. More help with crossing points and the rest are positioned around the green itself.

“We’re there to keep order, which isn’t easy sometimes when fans have been enjoying the hospitality - especially the corporate ones,” said Steve. “But generally the audience is full of golfers who know how to respect the occasion and don’t get too noisy.

“During the practice days we can talk to the players, the coaches and the caddies. But when the Open begins it’s a case of don’t speak unless they speak to you.”