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The Open Qualifying Series



Inside one of the four Final Qualifying venues

At The 67th Open at Prince’s Golf Club in 1932, and Gene Sarazen is returning his sand wedge to his bag upside down after playing out of the greenside bunker at the ninth, again.

Careful not to draw attention to his trio of expert escapes from the very same trap over the course of the weekend, made all the more conspicuous by his competitors’ repeated failure to replicate the trick, the Squire hid his modified club - specially designed for such a purpose and unknown to the rest of the golfing world.

The golfing great went on to become Champion Golfer, the third major ticked off his list on the way to an historic maiden career Grand Slam, and his concealment tactics have since gone down in folklore rather than disgrace.

And while players who turn up to the Sandwich course for this year’s Final Qualifying in June won’t have to take the same drastic steps to hide their lofted clubs, the hazards of the sand remain at the picturesque links.

“He went into the bunker three of the four rounds and used the sand wedge to extricate himself,” explains General Manager at Prince’s Rob McGuirk.

“He put the sand wedge in his bag upside-down in fear that he would get disqualified. It was the first time that anyone ever put bounce on the club - he shaved the bottom of the club off to get some bounce - and apparently he was coming out of the bunkers and everyone else wasn’t.

“It was great to have someone like him, the first person to achieve the career Grand Slam, to win The Open here.

“I think it was also the first time a sand wedge was ever used in competition was in that Open and he donated it to the club, which we have now stocked away - it’s quite valuable.”

Not only is the famous club kept safe under lock and key in the vaults at Prince’s, but the bunker of note will forever be decorated by a commemorative plinth nearby what has since been renamed as Sarazen’s Bunker.

But that isn’t the only piece of memorabilia that bedecks the links; it’s a course that certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to mythos.

“One of our most famous members - a guy called Laddie Lucas, who captained the Walker Cup team in 1949 - he was a fighter pilot during the Second World War,” continues McGuirk.

“His father was the original secretary and one of the first course designers here; Laddie himself was born in the clubhouse. He was shot down over France and guided his spitfire back to the coastline, saw Prince’s and landed it on the fourth fairway.

“He got out of his Spitfire, ran back and got into another plane. We’re very heavily connected with the war; we’ve actually got a replica propeller blade out by the tee where he landed.”

It would be unfair to characterise Prince’s by its foibles, however; a course that has enjoyed recent redevelopment from Martin Ebert - noted architect whose resume includes Royal Portrush - there’s a reason why Sarazen termed it Britain’s finest course as it once again prepares to host Final Qualifying for The Open.

“It’s a great honour to host it,” added McGuirk. “We’ve had a lot of work done to the course again, so new tee positions, new pathways and bunkers to add to the strategy.”