Kent’s cricket stars are naturally associated with wickets and runs, but a love for hitting a ball as far as possible also translates to the golf course for many of the squad.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that preparations ahead of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s in Sandwich has created a stir in the camp, with less than a year to go until the action tees off.
As part of the 168th Canterbury Cricket Week, the coveted Claret Jug was on display at the St Lawrence Ground during Kent’s County Championship clash with Essex, with attention garnered from fans and players alike.
Opening batsman Zak Crawley, 21, explains golf formed a major part of his upbringing, and how excited he is by the prospect of The Open returning to a venue so close to home.
“I’ve played golf since I was really young,” he said. “Growing up I probably preferred it to cricket, actually.
“I play off four [handicap] – I’m probably the worst player in the world with that handicap, but I’m still hanging on to it!
“A lot of the lads here love their golf and it can get really competitive – there are a few comics in the team and it’s good fun.
“For us, having The Open just down the road is amazing. I went to one of the days in 2011 and I couldn’t believe the standard of some of the players.
“Having played at St George’s and some of the other Open courses, I know how hard it is.
“I’ve managed to meet Darren Clarke which was really cool, but I’d love to bump into Tiger Woods.
“He was always my favourite growing up – I just loved the way he went about his business and he was so clinical. It’s going to be great seeing him play down here again.”
Teammate Darren Stevens – who plays off a handicap of two – agrees Woods is an influential figure who has played a part in his love for the game.
“I really enjoyed seeing him win the Masters,” the 43-year-old all-rounder said. “That was phenomenal.
“But I think someone like 2018 Champion Francesco Molinari will be right up there next year because you’ve just got to be smart at Royal St George’s – he’s dead straight and has a good short game.
“I’ve been a member at Prince’s Golf Club – only ten minutes from St George’s – for around eight years and I love the game. I’m a bit of a golf badger.
“I do a lot of practice but not a lot of playing – having two children has hindered me a little bit – but I try and get out on the course every other week.
“I’ve played the Championship course [at Royal St George’s] lots of times and it’s brilliant that The Open’s coming back to Kent for the 15th time.
“The county comes alive and I can’t wait to get involved in the months leading up to the big event.”
Kent director of cricket Paul Downton – who is a member at Royal St George’s – believes the competition represents a huge occasion for the whole area.
“It’s very exciting and there are a lot of preparations going on,” he said.
“It’s great that people have been able to see the Claret Jug thanks to a great initiative from the R&A and Kent CCC.
“We’ll be eagerly anticipating the announcement of next year’s cricket fixtures to make sure we can get to some of the action.”