Having tipped his hat from a bygone era to the legendary James Braid at its launch in Edinburgh, the driving force behind the first Scottish Hickory Tour since 1930 is hoping to see “real golf” appeal to a television audience.
The “IceBreaker” James Braid Hickory Open, staged in the capital on the 150th anniversary of the birth of the five-time Open champion and legendary course designer, provided Boris Lietzow with the perfect start to his new circuit.
With nine more tournaments planned, including visits to Bruntsfield Links, Musselburgh, Royal Musselburgh, Boat of Garten and Grantown on Spey before a season-ending final at Lundin Links in October, the hickory enthusiast who owns the Jack White Shop in Gullane believes he os on to a winner.
“I think this is a comeback for real golf,” Lietzow told The Scotsman at the Braids after playing the first nine holes in the opening event before making the short journey to the Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club for another nine holes. “There aren’t too many of us in the world, but the growing field of professionals is what gave me the confidence to instigate a professional tour.
“We have managed to generate prize-money ourselves for this year’s tour, but I want to take it to a spectacular level. I want it to be something that can be televised.
“Nothing is better than watching professionals handling hickories and you see them shank shots occasionally. It is more interesting watching hickory golf than modern golf as there is a chane of failure and, also, you can still follow the ball.
“The interest is there. It is the first season, so we don’t expect too much. But I think with this first event we have already exceeded our expectations.”
Having two former World Hickory Open champions, Fraser Mann and Andrew Marshall, in the first field was certainly a boost, with the former admitting it had been a huge thrill to tackle the Braids with hickories on such a special day.
“It is pretty special. It gives you goosepimples,” said the former Musselburgh professional. “It’s like playing at St Andrews on the Old Course. It’s great to be out there using equipment from back in the day. It’s great that Boris has managed to get the Hickory Tour up and running. The World Hickory Open is such a fun event. It is so popular and it will be great to try to repeat that five or six times per year.”
In the week when the R&A and USGA acknowledged that long hitting in the game needs to be curbed, Mann smiled as he talked about it being a different sport with hickories. “For us, it is going back to the roots,” said the North Berwick resident. “It’s great fun because it’s about the skill factor rather than the power factor.”