It just happened I was wearing a sweatshirt that almost matched the Challenge Belt — the original prize when the Open was first played in 1860 — when my friend James took me to see it last Tuesday. When it was brought out, he said, “You have to try it on.” I was being shy and politely declined, but he insisted (those Scots are convincing while being very well-mannered), adding that everyone else had. Little did I know that meant only two other people — we broke it in for the eventual Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen — so it was quite a privilege.
“The first time we presented a replica of the Challenge Belt was in 1985, the 125th anniversary of the Open, and awarded to Sandy Lyle, the first Scotsman to win in a long while at the time, “ Ian Bunch said. (Another Scot, Paul Lawrie, won the Open in 1999.) “This year because it’s the 150th anniversary, we decided to do it again. In [agreement] with the R&A, it was decided the belt would be handed over along with Claret Jug.”
The original Challenge Belt is in a trophy case in the R&A Clubhouse and Prestwick, which bore the cost of making the replicas, didn’t need to borrow it to manufacture this year’s belt.
I really had a remarkable week and I feel very lucky that I happened to stumble across such random yet distinctive and memorable experiences — it completed the whole British Open at St. Andrews thing. For a little while, I’m sure every tournament will seem far less compelling (notwithstanding the last 3 or so hours).
I’m still having problems comprehending the ending and the week, but I’m probably just tired. I’ll assess with a rested and clear head either Monday or Tuesday. I’m actually going to see some of the town outside of the 500-yard radius I’ve ventured in the past week. Well, besides that midnight trip to visit the ghost of Tom Morris…