When 16-year-old Jason Blue was struck on the head by Rory McIlroy’s wayward tee shot off the 15th on Thursday, medical help reached him long before McIlroy did. Indeed, one of six on-course nurses at Royal Lytham had already bandaged the wound by the time McIlroy arrived at the scene. Such speed of response came as no surprise to Dr Steven Reid, member of the Royal and Ancient and Chief Medical Officer at The Open.
“Myself and two other R&A members are doctors on site here,” explained Dr Reid, sitting in his mobile office at the Medical Centre, at the furthest end of the practice ground by Beauclerk Road. “Seven local doctors are also here. Out on the course we have three buggies each staffed with two paramedics, and we have another two paramedics on bikes – useful for getting through large crowds fast. We also have six nurses on site at any one time – two here at the Medical Centre, two at First Aid Post One in the Lytham tented village, and two more at First Aid Post Two by the 6th green.”
It was a nurse from FAP1 (as the lingo has it) who attended young Mr Blue, as FAP1 is a matter of yards away from the place he was struck. Had it been necessary, one of three on-site ambulances could have come to his aid. Should anyone need hospital treatment, an off-site ambulance is summoned specifically.
“You have to realise the number of people at The Open, including all staff, can be about 56,000,” explains Dr Reid. “That equals the population of Lytham itself. Our operation works so well that it has been copied by other venues around the world.”
Dr Reid, who coincidentally lives in Lytham, has been in charge of matters medical at The Open since last year, although he has been a part of the on-site team at every Open since 2001. Continuity is valued on the team, as it helps the whole operation run smoother. The quietest year in his experience was Carnoustie in 2007, when 337 cases were treated; the busiest was 811 at Royal St George’s in 2003. Such figures come as a bit of an eye-opener to those who imagine all that requires treating is the occasional bee-sting.
For this year’s Championship, Dr Reid arrived on site last Saturday to start setting up the Medical Centre, and stocking it. Throughout the tournament the team gets in at 6am and leaves around 9.30pm, although Dr Reid remains on call throughout the night for any of the players or their families.
“When play is underway, you’re always going to get people hit by balls,” he explains. “It happens at every venue. With the McIlroy incident, it was clear on television that a bike paramedic and a buggy were also mobilised. It was the same when Tiger hit a spectator at Carnoustie.
“The spectrum of incidents we deal with is quite wide. This week, for example, we have seen three suspected heart attacks. The biggest problem with heart attacks is reaching them, and then moving them. During my 11 years of involvement, we have sadly had two fatalities.
“Otherwise we typically see problems with diabetes through not eating or drinking enough during the day. We had three or four sufferers of epileptic fits at Royal Troon in 2004 – other years, none. Here at Royal Lytham we have had various ankle injuries from wet slips and dry trips – they cause different injuries. In general, wet conditions are actually less likely to break bones. Often it’s more a loss of dignity than anything more severe. Yesterday a gentleman sustained a knee injury when giving a lady a piggyback, after he had consumed a bottle of champagne. He appeared to associate the injury with the size of the lady, rather than the consumption of the champagne.”
Like so many in the vast army of support staff who help The Open run smoothly, Dr Reid loves the job.
“It’s great,” he reports. “Really enjoyable. The only down side is that I see very little golf.”