ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — As Scott Herald stood in his garden in St. Andrews, he had to ask a reporter to confirm what happened. You’ll have to forgive him, he said, saying he hadn’t slept much, so he wanted to make sure the dream came true.
“It’s all ridiculous, isn’t it?” Herald, 35, asked. “It didn’t install.”
What hasn’t happened for Herald is what happened just hours ago: On Saturday, the club pro was able to play in the Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews, the journey and the city he calls home.
“How…how good is that?” Herald said.
Hailing from Glasgow, Herald is an instructor at St. Andrews Links, where he started in 2015. With his workspace serving as the site of the 150th Championship celebration, he has been trying to qualify for the event. Herald once had professional aspirations and played in a handful of minor league circuits in Europe. Given his background, a documentary crew followed Herald in the run-up to this event, realizing that if he managed to qualify, it would be one hell of a story to tell. Unfortunately for Herald, his attempt failed in final qualifying two weeks ago, and knowing there would be no range lessons to be given this week, he figured he would have a relatively few days calm.
Instead, Herald received the warning from R&A officials that if an odd number of players passed, he was selected to serve as the weekend scorer.
While that possibility would fulfill one of his wildest fantasies, Herald decided to keep it there.
“Even knowing that I had been wiretapped, I didn’t want to count on it. I had to keep my guard up,” Herald said.
But Friday came around, and as the final games unfolded, Herald realized that the fantasy didn’t seem so fantastic. Around 10 p.m. local time, he got the word: 83 players had made the cut. Herald officially – albeit unofficially – was in the open field.
From there, it was a whirlwind. He had to get proper accreditation from the R&A to access places that only players have access to. Knowing what awaited him, he stayed awake for most of the night. On Saturday morning, he was able to stretch and do a short warm-up before serving as a benchmark for Richard Mansell and his local start time of 8:35. Shortly before they left, as he stood on the first tee and gazed at the stands to his right and left and what he was looking at, Herald had the briefest moments of clarity.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, we’re here,'” Herald said.
Herald was there to do a job – to keep Mansell’s score and not hold him up – and he did it well. Yet while a scorer is inherently low-key (safe for Jeff Knox’s ceremonial role at the Masters), word began to spread that the local boy was on the ropes. At the 14th hole, the crowd started to get bigger and bigger. They were there for Herald, and they let him know.
“I’m going to take this to my grave,” Herald said of the closing holes. “Since about [the 14th] until 6 p.m., the crowd began to grow. As we reached the village, I heard more and more screams. I had no idea where they came from. It’s hard to spot, just a mass of people. But I could feel it, I could.
Herald has been lucky enough to play the Old Course several times. It never gets old, he says; it is indescribable. Even on calm days or evenings when he is the last on the course. You would think it would eventually become normal, only a place like this stays special, regularity be damned.
And yet, that march to the 18th, at the Open, in one of sport’s greatest arenas as he was showered with cheers and nods, cries of his name and feelings of love… it’s a different kind of special. Herald searches for the right words to describe him, but gives up, knowing he can’t do him justice.
The best part? On Sunday, he was able to do it again, paired with English amateur Sam Bairstow. As he walked around a second time, locals cheered him on again. His parents are here this week, as are the parents of his wife Mari (Mari, who also works at St. Andrews Links, operates one of the retail tents there). They also have friends staying home for the championship. At some point on Sunday, Herald thinks they’ll get a chance to sit down and enjoy his moment. How will he celebrate?
“Probably popping a bottle or two of beer, I imagine,” Herald says. “A toast is in order.”
Seems about right. Toasts are always in order when dreams come true.
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