Pro shop worker basks in his British Open moment

By TIM DAHLBERG

AP Sports Writer

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (AP) Keir McNicoll played 18 holes in the British Open, teeing off Saturday to polite applause from the crowd in the grandstands surrounding the first tee.

Then he put his clubs away and went to work a shift in the Carnoustie pro shop.

"Just looking after the families and stuff that are there," McNicoll said. "Just be in the shop with the rest of the shop staff."

McNicoll got the call as a marker to fill out a twosome in the first group off the tee in the third round. His score wasn't kept, but he did make a birdie on the third hole that he said helped calm his nerves.

The former top Scottish amateur works as an assistant pro in the Carnoustie pro shop, usually arriving at 4:30 a.m. for his day's work. With a spot in the third round of the Open, though, he worked the late shift instead.

"I'll go out about 3 p.m. and work to about 10," he said.

McNicoll just missed the cut in his professional debut in the Dunhill Links Championship. He stopped playing competitively soon after, having lost confidence in his game. He was an assistant at the Gullane links for five years before moving to Carnoustie two years ago.

He's tried to qualify for the Open on his own a half dozen times, making it to the second stage last year. But his nearest brush to actually playing in the Open came in 2005 when he caddied for his friend Eric Ramsay at the Open at St. Andrews.

On Saturday, the 34-year-old finally heard his name called as he stood on the first tee.

"I got emotional on the 1st tee," he said. "It was obviously too much. Had I qualified here, I don't know what that would have been."

McNicoll, whose father was a defender for the Tynecastle soccer club in the late 1970's, was once a plus-6 handicap as an amateur won the St. Andrews Links Trophy in 2008. He was looking to a promising future as a professional, but quickly realized his future was working as a club pro, not a touring player.

He played with Gavin Green, who made the cut on the number at 3-over-par and shot a 71 in the third round. Though McNicoll has played the course many times, he found it quite different in tournament conditions.

"Just standing on different tees and stuff," he said. "You don't realize how it is off those back tees, even though I've played probably a dozen rounds off the back tees. Just wouldn't carry some bunkers, which today with the setup it makes it so much more difficult for someone with my length."

McNicoll hopes to be invited back Sunday to play again. After that, it's back to a different sort of work.

"In the shop, coaching juniors here," he said.

Updated July 21, 2018