Above-par Kenny's golf musings are a major hit

COUNTLESS numbers of people attend the year's four major golf tournaments - the US Masters, US Open, The Open (ours) and the US PGA.

For starters, there's Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the latest winner of one and even Tiger Woods, who, when seemingly stuck in the domestic doghouse and not allowed out, still managed to find his way along to this year's opener.

Then there's Kenny Reid. He may not be quite the household name as those golfing luminaries but he's no less entertaining. The 40-year-old - who was just 11-months-old when he saw his first Open - has spent the last year completing a "fan slam" of the majors, and with the biggest event in golf teeing up at St Andrews this week he'll be there signing copies of his account of a 2009 journey that took him from Georgia to New York State to Ayrshire to Minnesota.

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Appropriately enough, Kenny's book is titled A Major Obsession, but those who fear something along the lines of a pedant's guide to dysfunctionality are quickly reassured by a mixture of the quirky balance by deep insight with a large measure of passion for his sport thrown in.

For example, one of the initial observations by Kenny, a freelance IT consultant who lives in the New Town, is to note that the Masters clubhouse is decorated from a van emblazoned "Floral and Hardy".

And, when it comes to bringing alive the sights, sounds and, er, smells of the Majors, where better to look than Augusta, again, as he reveals: "WC staff usher patrons to use urinals and those who need a more substantial evacuation are met upon exiting their stall by an employee who sprays some fresh scent into the air, saving the next patron from noxious odours."

If only it had all been as cheap as spending a penny. One enthusiast of my acquaintance has been estimating his Masters trip alone this year cost 8000, partly due to the difficulty in obtaining tickets for the four day golf-fest.

Kenny was fortunate to have a "mystery" Masters patron happy to hand over his ticket for one year only - although he had been able to attend practice sessions in 2007.

That helped sow the seeds of his odyssey, as he explained over a cup of coffee in The Living Room in George Street. "On the strength of attending a couple of Majors a few years back I penned a 1000 word article which a golf magazine were kind enough to print despite me having no background either as a journalist or writer.

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"When the article appeared I vowed I'd try to take in all four Majors one year - despite having no publisher when I set out.

"It is something I felt I had to do.

Watching on television is no substitute for being there and experiencing the tension not to mention crowd emotions and the humour."

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Humour runs deep and Kenny is particularly adept at conveying local spoken dialect to the written word; "Make it stawp rainin Tyga"; you are made to feel part of a New York golf gallery by the description of an accent straight off Fifth Avenue.

Similarly, he tells of the sheer drama - and uncertainties - that surrounded Tom Watson's bold and brilliant bid to lift the Open title at the age of 59 down on Turnberry's Links.

"Some of the press pack were concerned," he writes, "that a 59-year-old winner would reflect badly on golf - as if Hillary Clinton was going to be crowned Miss Universe. I have some sympathy with that view."

In the event Watson's attempt unravelled on the 72nd and final hole when he over-clubbed, watched from a few feet away by the intrepid Reid, who summed up, saying: "I was almost directly behind Tom with a clear view of player and target. The tension was palpable.

"Surely at no other time in any sport could so many in a single crowd be rooting for the same outcome. I was imaginging all sort of terrible things; a duff, a shank, a fresh air shot. The pressure was unbearable and I was just in the crowd. What emotions must have been going through Watson's mind?

"The Scottish golf public went from Mardi Gras to state funeral in a few easy minutes."

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Such happenings meant that Reid chose a very good year featuring victories for Phil Mickelsen (Masters) Luke Glover (US Open) and Stewart Cink (Open) but highlighted at the last by history being made.

The trip to Hazeltine for the US PGA brought victory for South Korea's Y.E. Yang, the first Asian to win a major after an epic dual with Tiger Woods. Unashamedly, Reid was cheering for Yang and if there is a strain running through the book it is that while Woods the golfer is to be admired Woods the person is less appealing.

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This is confirmed at our meeting when Kenny tells me: "I just feel Tiger has become too much of a brand and he couldn't even commit himself to saying whether he was a Democrat or Republican supporter in case that affected his money-making potential."

No such reservation from Kenny - a two handicap champion at West Lothian Golf Club where his brother, Alan, is the professional - when it comes to naming his own all-time champion.

"My parents met on the golf course and I was carried around an Open at the age of 11 months.

However, what inspired my love of golf as much as anything was watching Seve Ballesteros win at St Andrews in 1984 when I was just 14-years-old."

Sadly, Ballesteros won't be there this year due to ill-health, but Kenny Reid will be greenside, possibly watching the 200th first-time Major winner in exactly 150 years, seeking inspiration for his next golfing tome and continuing to collect vignettes like the superstars gather birdies.

One of Kenny's best bon-mots concerned American golf Bruce Lietzke, who had an aversion to practice to the extent that he told his caddy to put the clubs away for the entire off-season.

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Sceptical that a player of such distinction could afford to take such time off the caddy duly placed a banana under the cover of Lietzke's driver ... only to return a few months later to a piece of fruit so rotten that the golf bag had to be binned.

No such banana skins from Kenny Reid in achieving the rare feat in sports-writing of engaging the reader without resorting to celebrity quotes, banal or penetrative.

• A Major Obsession - One Fan, Four Golf Championships by Kenny Reid is published by Birlinn at 12.99.