Royal Birkdale shop professional gets call to play as Open marker
It was a 9.50pm last night when Greg Pettersen got the call he had been waiting for.
He had just left the pro shop at Royal Birkdale where he has worked for the last 15 years when the phone rang, and he was told that he was to be the marker for South Africa’s Shaun Norris in the first game on the course the following morning.
Pettersen is the latest of literally dozens of people who have been drafted in as markers when the Open cut throws up an odd number of competitors. Their names are seen nowhere on a leaderboard. There are few lasting records of their contribution, but they are all left with an experience they will never forget.
“It was fantastic," said the 38-year-old Pettersen, who hails from St. Helens but now lives in Southport with his wife and two children.
“I got the call last night about 9.50 p.m. I had actually just left the shop and was walking up to my car when I got the call. It was something we’d talked about, but it was still a great thrill to get the news.”
“I was supposed to be working in the shop this morning, so I’ve got no idea who is minding for me,” he added. “I’ll be going back in there this afternoon, and I’m sure things will soon be back to normal. I expect to be there again until about 10 o’clock tonight.”
Pettersen was not counting his score, but he figures he was 4 or 5 over par which was a lot more than the much-travelled Norris, who carded a 5-under 65. He might have spent most of his career plying his trade in Asia and Japan, but he was right at home at Birkdale as he made five birdies and did not drop a single shot.
“I felt like I was back home,” he admitted. “The weather in South Africa is perfect for golf, and that’s what it felt like this morning.
“We tried to play a bit more aggressively and it worked out very nicely. There are some funky pin positions, but the greens are a little bit more receptive. The fairways are softer so you can be a bit more aggressive. I wouldn’t expect anything less than fireworks from the leaders this afternoon. The course is out there to take on, so I’m sure a couple of them will go low.
"Gregg was an absolute pleasure to play with,” Norris added. “He’s a really nice guy so it was good fun. It felt comfortable. We had good fun out there. We had lots of laughs. Actually, it felt very good. He was very nervous on the first tee. He’s played the course a hundred times, but never with so many people hanging around.”
Tomorrow, Pettersen will be back in the shop, making way for another Birkdale assistant, Nick Jennings.
“I’ve had my fun,” Pettersen said. “Now it’s time for his. I know he’ll have a great time.”