HE MAY be the son of one of England’s greatest golfers but Sean Jacklin is proudly flying the Scottish flag as he bids to follow in his dad Tony’s footsteps.
Now 23 and named after his father’s good friend Sean Connery, Jacklin jnr was born in Biggar during a four-year spell when Tony and his second wife, Astrid, lived in Quothquhan Lodge close to the South Lanarkshire town.
He’s spent most of his life in the United States, where his parents moved in 1993 to coincide with two-times major winner Jacklin snr becoming eligible for the Champions Tour.
Jacklin jnr is also attached to The Concession Golf Club, the facility in Florida named after one of the game’s greatest goodwill gestures, when Jack Nicklaus conceded a two-foot putt to Jacklin snr in the 1969 Ryder Cup to create a tie.
However, it appears that Sean is remaining loyal to his roots after registering for this week’s Joburg Open, a co-sanctioned event involving the European Tour and Sunshine Tour, as a Scot. He opened with a three-under 68 to sit joint-43rd.
Jacklin jnr, who secured playing rights for the Sunshine Tour through its Qualifying School last month, received an invitation for the event at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club. When registering earlier in the week, he filled out a standard form that includes the basic details – date of birth, place of birth etc. The latter, of course, doesn’t necessarily determine a player’s golfing nationality. Major winner Justin Rose was born in Johannesburg but has played all his golf under the English flag, while Andrew Oldcorn, an English Amateur champion, switched his allegiance to Scotland 20 years ago after winning a lengthy fight based on residency.
Three years ago, when he played in two events on the Challenge Tour, Jacklin jnr was flying the Stars and Stripes, but not any more. “Our recorder/secretary checked with Sean on Monday and he confirmed his Scottish-ness,” said a European Tour spokesman.
According to Jacklin snr’s manager, the decision to opt for the country of his birth as opposed to his residence is based on two factors. “I think it’s a connection between Sean being born in Scotland and named after Sean Connery, Tony’s good friend,” said Lloyd Bailey, of Loughborough-based Champions of Golf. “It’s also so he can play for Europe in the Ryder Cup ahead of the States.”
Sitting at 1,324th in the world rankings, Jacklin jnr has work on his hands to even get close to that target but certainly isn’t scared to spread his wings in a bid to gain experience. He’s already had a season on the PGA Tour’s Latinoamerica circuit and is now following in his dad’s spikemarks by trying his luck in South Africa. “When my dad turned pro at 19, he came out to South Africa for about eight weeks by himself,” said Jacklin. “He missed six of the eight cuts, went home with 50 quid, and it was a learning experience.
“He came back the next year and played well in the events and got the experience. That was like his stepping stone, and we just thought that this would be a good opportunity.”
Like fellow Tour newcomer Javier Ballesteros, Seve’s son, Jacklin jnr has a hard act to follow after his Scunthorpe-born father won the 1969 Open at Royal Lytham then became US Open champion as well the following year. In his last appearance in the Open Championship – at Carnoustie in 2007 – Jacklin had Sean caddying for him.
“I always wanted to be a pro golfer,” said Jacklin jnr. “It was just the dream of being the best that always drove me on. I love the competition.
“My dad never really had to push me because I never wanted to do anything else. I never had a change of heart about playing golf. I feel if I keep plugging away, eventually some doors will open.”
Bernard Gallacher, who was Jacklin snr’s vice captain as he helped shift the balance of power in the Ryder Cup in the mid-to-late 1980s, praised Sean for his decision. “Tony is English to the core so this is something that Sean has obviously done off his own back,” he said. “He wants to play for Scotland because that’s where he was born and that’s great.”
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