Why I've been mentally scarred by St Andrews experience ahead of The Open

It felt like an invasion of privacy. In fact, it’s left me feeling worried about being in the same position again on a golf course.

In a bid to set the scene, it’s just after 10.30am last Tuesday morning and, as always, there seemed to be a lot of people around the first tee on the Old Course at St Andrews.

I’m heading out in the second group in a media event in the build up to the 150th Open and, with lots of eyes watching, all you are thinking about is getting the ball airborne with that nervous first shot of the day.

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Hearing some say that I was about to hit off, a colleague standing close by shouted, “what a minute Martin, I want to capture this on video.”

The grandstands are starting to go up around the Old Course at St Andrews for the 150th Open in July.

All that did was make me accelerate the process and I felt fairly happy that I managed to hit what felt like a decent shot straight and long enough to leave an 8-iron for my second.

Before I’d even got my bag, though, I quickly discovered that at least one other person had captured the said blow and my heart sank straight away.

I’ll hold my hands up and admit that the main reason - well, I thought it was anyway - had absolutely nothing to do with golf. It was purely down to the one thing in life that often makes me feel depressed and that, of course, is a receding hairline.

It sounds vain, I know, but, apart from with my better half, I’ve never actually had the courage to talk about it openly and pictures from certain angles when you are swinging a golf club have become something I dread.

Martin Dempster, The Scotsman golf correspondent, and the Daily Record's Craig Swan with the Claret Jug before teeing off on the Old Course at St Andrews.

But these ones also left me feeling almost embarrassed to be treading that historic Old Course turf because even I couldn’t believe how bad my swing had become.

It starts with a shocking hand movement, it’s short and quick and goodness knows what my legs are doing. I felt absolutely devastated walking down the first fairway and that mood was reflected throughout the round.

My driving display thereafter was summed up at the 17th, where I hit two balls, both of which made contact with different parts of the Old Course Hotel.

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A four-putt on the eighth - one of the flattest greens on the course - epitomised my putting and, as always seems to be the case, I found Hill bunker at the left side of the 11th green and gave up trying to escape.

Don’t get me wrong. As always being out on the Old Course, it was an enjoyable day, even more so due to the fact the grandstands are going up for that milestone Open in July.

And, even two-and-a-months or so beforehand, what an absolute thrill it is to make that walk up the 18th as you can just sense how special that must be when you are about to become the ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’.

But, on this occasion, my round was doomed due to people perhaps thinking they were doing a nice thing but actually leaving me mentally scarred.

Incidentally, the guy who sent me those pictures won the event. Oh, and guess what? He’s got a full head of hair.

Some people have all the luck, eh?

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