No shame in being a Scot, says Sean Jacklin - Tony's son - as he tees up in US Open

His dad is English to the core and his own accent is distinctly American. But Sean Jacklin, Tony’s son, is proud to be Scottish. As such, he’s excited to be the sole player flying the Saltire in next week’s 122nd US Open at Brookline Country Club in Boston,

“I think it sets me apart. It is where I was born and there is no shame in that,” Jacklin jnr, who safely negotiated two qualifying stages to secure the biggest assignment in his career in the season’s third major, told Scotland on Sunday in an exclusive interview.

Born in Biggar during a four-year spell when Tony and his second wife, Astrid, lived in Quothquan Lodge close to the South Lanarkshire town. Jacklin was named after his father’s good friend, the late Sean Connery. Having spent most of his life in the US, he doesn’t share Connery’s Caledonian tone, but that doesn’t stop him from being fiercely loyal to his birthplace.

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“Because my family doesn’t have a lot of ties to Scotland - my mum was born in Norway and my dad is English - people often ask, ‘why don’t you just play under the English flag?’” revealed the 30-year-old. “But, in my opinion, there are enough English players out there. There are enough Americans out there.

Sean Jacklin, who will be the sole player flying the Scottish flag in the 120th US Open next week, in action on the Korn Ferry Tour in Texas in 2021. Picture: Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

“I love Scotland and I always explain it as rugged, natural beauty. The history of the game is so rich in Scotland as well and, while I did grow up in the States after moving over here when my dad started playing on the Champions Tour, I also have had a Scottish sponsor in Eric Herd, who owns Farmfoods.”

Herd, of course, has been a loyal supporter of 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, both personally and with ventures such as the Scottish Par 3 Championship, Tartan Pro Tour and the recently-resurrected Scottish Challenge.

“He has been a crucial part of my ability to keep going in the game,” admitted Jacklin, who held a Sunshine Tour card in South Africa at one point and has also teed up in a handful of events on the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour Latinoamerica but has played most of his professional golf on mini-tours in the States. “He has believed in my ability and, without him and a few other people in my corner, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Jacklin’s journey to Brookline is worth delving into, having started in a local qualifier at Sara Bay Country Club in Sarasota, close to where he lives in Bradenton – his parents are also in that area of Florida – with wife Paige and daughter Margot. “I was at least in a play-off for one of the spots then the final group came in and one of the guys had shot four-under and bumped myself and another guy out, leaving me in a play-off with him for the alternate spot, which I won.

Tony Jacklin with son Sean when he caddied for him in the 136th Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

“Then I found out the USGA had made a new rule this year where a local qualifier can’t take an exempt player’s spot in sectionals if they happened to withdraw. For example, in the Memorial Tournament in Ohio, a lot of the tour guys playing there sign up for the sectional qualifier on the Monday straight afterwards in Columbus.

“For years everyone who was an alternate would go up and try to get in there as there would always be about 10-15 pros who would withdraw, but that would have been counter-intuitive this year due to the new rule, so I decided to drive over to The Club at Admiral’s Cove in Jupiter the night before and see what happened.”

Up against the likes of former Scottish Open champion Rickie Fowler and fellow PGA Tour winner Matthew Wolff, Jacklin shot rounds of 66-71 to share top spot in a battle for just four berths, but it was a close call as far as even teeing it up was concerned.

“I was fortunate that two local qualifiers who play on the Latinoamerica Tour were playing in South America and weren’t able to make it back and I grabbed that last alternate spot 20 minutes before the tee time,” he added. “I just went out there and played. I didn’t really have time to dream about anything. It wasn’t like the night before I was thinking about a guaranteed opportunity to get to the US Open.

“I was under the assumption that I had to go low and keep my foot on the gas and, after 27 holes, I had got to nine-under and had a bit of a lead, though I wasn’t aware of that. The weather then started coming through and we got called off on 16.

“It was a tough second round as I was cramping up all the time and I was just getting a bit sloppy. It was the end of a long day and I was caddying for myself and it was just a grind to finish. I was literally worried about not being able to physically finish due to the cramping being so bad that it was keeping me away from thinking about the outcome and I think that might have helped.

“Anyway, I knew what I had to do the last three holes and I holed a nice four-and-a-half footer for a par on the last. I knew I could miss it and still get in, but there was that element of satisfaction that goes with being the co-medallist. I went from the outhouse to the penthouse in about 12 hours and I am thrilled.”

The Jacklin name, of course, is synonymous with the US Open after Tony landed the title in style with a seven-shot success at Hazeltine in 1970 - a year after he’d been crowned as Open champion at Royal Lytham. He was the only European to win the US Open in an 84-year span from 1926 to 2009.

“Obviously with the history of my dad in the event, I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps,” said Jacklin jnr. “I know that I’ve always been capable of putting myself in a position like this and now I’ve got to try to not let the moment overtake my ability. It’s my first major, it’s going to be a family affair and it’s something I am looking forward to.”

It could be career-changing, the opportunity having come at a time when you feel he’s sitting at a crossroads. “Just last week I signed up for the PGA programme so that I could start teaching in my spare time to earn some money - my career so far has mainly been made up of playing on mini-tours to try and further my career and just keep a roof over my head and pay my bills - and have an alternative if the golf doesn’t work out,” he said.

“While I love teaching and helping other people, it’s not the dream and then, boom, I’m in the US Open. It’s funny how life works out. But the game doesn’t owe you anything. The game doesn’t care about a feel-good story. I need to have a clear mind. I need to know that I am there for a reason and then just go and play some good golf.

“When you are playing on mini-tours all the time, you start wondering if you are ever going to get that break and get out there. You question things as time goes on. Things like this make all the down times worth it and I’m just really grateful.

“I’ve got a six-month old and when I was thinking about qualifying, even before the local stage, my miniature goal was to have a Father’s Day at the US Open and it’s great that it has transpired.”

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