Even in the wacky world of golf, it was no ordinary day. One player, Jose Coceres of Argentina, wore oven gloves he had borrowed from his local lodgings to combat feeling cold as a wind whipping in from the west magnified an autumn chill in the air at Craigielaw.
There was also the unusual sight of some players, including former world No 1 Ian Woosnam and his fellow Ryder Cup player, Gordon Brand jnr, sitting in the clubhouse drinking coffee halfway through their opening rounds in the Scottish Seniors Open at the East Lothian venue.
The latter was the result of an almighty pile-up on the first tee. Caused by the opening hole being a driveable par-4, groups that had started on the back nine found themselves waiting for up to 40 minutes before setting out on their inward journey.
“We found four groups waiting when we got on to the first tee,” reported Gary Orr, one of five home players in the field, of a situation he is hoping can be avoided for the rest of the event by the introduction of a call-up system whereby the group on the green steps aside to let the one behind tee off.
“I should have come into the clubhouse but didn’t as I didn’t want to sit down as I might not have got back up again,” he added, jokingly. The unwanted break probably worked against the majority but not Orr. “I birdied the first, which wasn’t so bad after that long wait,” said the Helensburgh man.
Bagging six birdies in total, he carded a three-under-par 68. That left him handily-placed, sitting two shots behind the pacesetter, Welshman Stephen Dodd, in fourth as he bids to land a first victory on the Staysure Tour at the 20th attempt.
“I’ve been pretty steady this year,” said Orr, a two-time European Tour winner. “I just need to get over the line somewhere. Hopefully this week as that would be ideal. But, if not, hopefully it might not be too far away.”
Dodd already has three over-50s titles to his name. His latest success came in Germany and he is on an incredible run, having been no lower than sixth place in his last six regular events. The 52-year-old from Barry burst out of the blocks with three birdies as he opened with a 66 to lead by a shot from his compatriot, Woosnam, as well as Englishman David Shacklady.
“It’s probably down to a bit of good coaching with Denis Pugh,” said Dodd, a World Cup winner with Bradley Dredge in 2005, of his hot streak. “We’ve been working together for a long time, and we found something. It seems to have worked the last few months.”
Woosnam, one of 14 Ryder Cup players in the field, topped the leaderboard after getting to five-under with three holes to play. Back-to-back bogeys undid some of that good work but the former world No 1 was pleased to sign off with a birdie at the ninth, his closing hole.
“It wasn’t bad for a first go round here,” declared the 60-year-old, who recorded the most recent of his five wins as a golden oldie in 2014. “I didn’t have a practice round. I wasn’t feeling that great yesterday so didn’t bother. Maybe that’s the way forward. Sometimes it’s better not to know too much about a course.
“It was pretty cold and I was quite stiff but I hung on in there. It was a grind today. Did it get the juices flowing again? I was thinking I’d rather be in the clubhouse, to be honest.
“You learn lessons. Sometimes I try to be too perfect. This was a day when I just tried to do the simple things. That’s how I used to play; make it simple. This was a good start. And a nice 20 footer on the last to finish it off after a couple of dropped shots. I gave myself something to hang on to.”
Shacklady, winner of the Russian Open last month, played part of his round in heavy rain. “It got pretty nasty at the end,” admitted the 51-year-old after matching Woosnam’s effort.