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The Open - GUI Blog

​​​​​Alan Kelly, Communications Manager for the GUI gives us an insight into The Open as it returns to Ireland.

  • 19 July 2019

​PHOTO: The Claret Jug - image by Golffile.

A big week for golf on the island of Ireland, The Open gives us a chance to arrange meetings with commercial partners, current and prospective, to meet with members of the media and to network with counterparts from around the world.

With James Sugrue – our Amateur Champion included in the field, we will bring you exclusive content throughout the week.

FRIDAY
Down to the course for 8am to catch up on regular work. Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you can ignore the emails that are coming in!

I also take some time to read through the media guide and the programme. The work and effort that is put in to produce these resources is just incredible.

I grab a coffee and take a stroll out to the tented village to soak up the atmosphere. I meet up with two old friends, one from college and the other from primary school.

They are delighted to be at The Open, it’s been a bucket list item for them both. 

I’ve worked in golf for over 25 years and I’ve been privileged to attend Open championships, the Ryder Cup, Walker Cup and many Irish Opens.

Sometimes you need to be reminded about how lucky you are to attend these events and seeing how much the two guys enjoyed watching the world’s best really brought it home to me how lucky I am.

It wasn’t to be for James Sugrue today. He’s a class act. Keep an eye out for him over the next few months, I think there are many great days ahead for him. He’s a pleasure to work for, nothing is too much. I very much appreciate his time and I know the Irish golfing media do too.

With James not making the weekend my job here is more or less done. I’m going to hang around for the weekend and enjoy the golf.

Alan.

THURSDAY

4.45am – Alarm goes off and I’m in the car by 5am.

5.15am – Such is the demand for media shuttle buses they have started already. I park next to Brian Keogh of Irish Golf Desk and we walk to the bus. When we get there we hear ‘only one more seat’ and I tell Brian to go ahead. Then he offers it to me, then me to him. We are a few seconds into a Chuckle Brothers type routine when a voice with a Dublin accent gets our attention. ‘Would one of yiz just get on the bus’ booms a well-known journalist, fed up with our polite antics.

Brian goes ahead, but another bus rolls in soon and I’m at the Media centre at 5.40am.

5.50am – One of the benefits of getting in early is that you are ahead of the crowd and with gates opening at 6am I make my way into the stand that envelopes the first tee. I meet up with my good friend Paul Moriarty. Paul is someone I’ve worked with on and off since 2003 at the Home Internationals. He’s now an operations manager for The R&A and we chat about how great the event is and how well it’s going. We sit together and he explains who everyone is on the first tee.

Trophy carriers, trophy polishers, starters, photographers, CEO, media people, club members and staff – it is crazy. 

The closer we get to showtime the numbers dwindle and only the key supporting cast are there.

6.33am – A roar goes up from the back of the stand “Darren’s coming” but it’s Charley Hoffman who is first to the tee.

I’m expecting James next but in a nice hat-tip to his status as Amateur Champion he is last.

Darren emerges and a very polite but rousing cheer goes up. It’s vastly different to Darren’s introduction at The K-Club in 2006. There is, understandably, not as much raw emotion. He takes the applause and James Sugrue is announced to the tee.

6.35am – the action is underway and my plan is to follow James’ match for the duration.

Throughout the round I meet Sugrue family members, Ireland internationals past and present, friends and colleagues. There is a huge love for James. His mother Margaret and I are work colleagues and we’ve known each other for years.

I’ve watched James’ career progress over the last 8 years or so and I was gutted not to be at Portmarnock due to injury when he won The Amateur recently.

I watch the final hole in the media gantry located in the centre of the 5,000 capacity grandstand at the back of the 18th green.

It’s day one, and the stand is packed. An R&A official beside me notes that he has never seen the final green grandstand as packed for the first group of the day. 

It’s spine-tingling stuff, I can’t imagine what it is like for the players.

The media huddle is crazy. It seems that everyone wants to talk to Darren and James. There aren’t many for Charley.

Procedure is for players to do TV, Radio, Print and then Social media interviews.

I record a video clip with him but can’t publish it until Sky Sports cease their live broadcast this evening. 

I write my report on James’ round (see here​) and have some lunch with Golffile photographers.

It’s a quick coffee with a former colleague and then back to the desk.

Tomorrow James tees off later, thankfully and I’ll have to see how his round progresses before deciding on what my output for the day will be.

WEDNESDAY
First up today was a meeting with some advertising and brand agencies. The Open is a fantastic opportunity to meet up with industry leaders – it’s the only major held outside the USA so there are lots of people to catch up with.

I went back up to the media centre for Rory McIlroy’s press conference. He comes across very relaxed and chilled out. He shows no signs of stress or pressure and you get a sense that he’s ready for this, more than anyone.

James Sugrue has gone out to play holes 8 through 12 with Shane Lowry and GMac and after some time on the range the three of them along with Neil Manchip come back to the media mix zone. There’s a chance to say hello to Graeme and Shane but it’s James I really want to chat to.

The restrictions on video interviews are tight and there are only a handful of places that non-rights holders can shoot – and we are limited to no more than three clips a day, and each clip has to be under 2 minutes. 

That just means you ask the most relevant questions and keep it tight!!

We chat briefly before I record. James is so relaxed it’s a pleasure to work with him. He’s like a seasoned pro, speaks well and doesn’t appear out of place here.

The video can’t go online until after Sky Sports Golf has ceased live coverage so I load it for 7pm and head off to meet up with Mr Trackman himself, Michael Malone.

We chat about the GUI Academy and how we are making Trackman work and I’m almost convinced we need to purchase another unit for the facility.

I leave the site early, around 4pm and the rain is now pelting down. Spot flooding and muddy car parks all around. 

The crowds were huge today despite the weather and the R&A have confirmed that there will have been over 237,000 people through the gates this week – the largest crowd for an Open outside of St Andrews. 

Alarm clock set for 4.30am. I do not want to miss James’ first shot and will probably follow him for most of his round.

​​​
TUESDAY
Managed to get some sleep last night so woke feeling great and headed off to the course for 8.30am.

I’m lucky to be staying just 12 minutes or so from the course, thanks to the team at Irish Golfer magazine who have a room to spare in their house.

I had many bad experiences using a certain home letting website in the run up to the event so I was thrilled to be staying so close and with people I know well.

There is a noticeable increase in people here today. Many families out enjoying the warm summer sunshine. The course is packed.

James Sugrue has gone out by the time I make it to the media centre. He and Shane Lowry teed off at 7.50am and I caught up with Shane afterwards. 

Neil Manchip is here with Shane and we have the added benefit of Neil being national coach and helping James when needed.

Tiger Woods gave a press conference and I sat in to observe the goings on. It was standing room only for the three-time Open champion and the respect he was given was fantastic.

He has such a presence when he walks into a room, and seems to have a good rapport with many of the regular golf journalists on tour.

I caught up with contacts in Global Golf Post, the R&A’s marketing team and met with senior managers with Titleist who are official golf ball partners of the GUI.

Back in the media centre I popped in to Dustin Johnson’s press conference which seemed sparsely attended in comparison to Tiger’s.

It’s been great so far. Bumping into golfers I know, business contacts and friends.  If you don’t have a ticket for the rest of the week make sure you get in front of a television somewhere.

I do feel sorry though for some American and South African visitors who turned up at the front gate this morning to buy their tickets for the rest of the week, only to be told it’s a sell-out.

Tomorrow will be the busiest day so far this week and my plans include meeting with some advertising agencies, TrackMan and going to the Rory McIlroy press conference. I also hope to meet up with James for some final thoughts from him on his build up to Thursday.

SUNDAY / MONDAY

Bags packed and off to bed at 9.30pm. Alarms set for an array of times before 4am.

I wake up at 1am and cannot get back to sleep, so decide to jump in the car earlier than planned and make the 300km journey in the dead of night.

Loaded up on coffee, the night is foggy but the roads are quiet. It's 2.30am.

I arrive in the white car park at 5.50am, perched on a hilltop to the south-east of the links. I'm early. Very early.

Only two slightly bemused Japanese journalists have arrived before me and they are in good form after their journey from Belfast.

It's just a five minute drive when the bus picks us up at 6.30am.

We approach from the Portballintrae/Bushmills side. Those familiar with the road will know that the view of the course just opens up once you join the coast road.

The bus, now filled with overseas journalists and myself, is awash with 'oohs and ahs' as the majestic view of Royal Portrush fills our windows.

I've been in Portrush many times for the North, the Home Internationals and meetings, but today was the first time the hairs stood up on the back of my neck as the reality and scale of the event hit me.

Better scribes than I will articulate the beauty of the place this week, so I'm going to say no more except that it is breath-taking.

After a quick registration at the Media Centre where I double check what's allowed and more importantly not allowed, it's off to the first tee to see Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson tee off shortly after 8am. It's some three-ball to start the week with.

My day is pretty planned. I'm going to catch up with The Amateur Champion James Sugrue before he tees off in his practice round. Then I'm meeting with Tourism Northern Ireland before heading along to James' press conference in the afternoon.​

If I'm still awake, the plan is to post some videos this evening and to produce a podcast for Tuesday morning.

First, more coffee.