Steve's golf experience of a lifetime

"By the time I got to the tee I felt sick with nerves"

Bob Warters's picture
Tue, 8 Oct 2002

Steve Carr - thrill of a lifetime.

On the night before he was due to pitch up to St Andrews to play in last week’s Dunhill Links Championship Steve Carr didn’t sleep.

The 36-year-old four-handicap journalist had been drawn to play with Argentinian Angel Cabrera in the annual pro-am event over the Old Course. And from the moment his head hit the pillow, he spent the next few hours replaying in his mind whether to pull out 2-iron or 4-wood on the first tee.

"By the time I got to the tee in the morning I felt quite sick. The match in front was Ian Woosnam and Ian Botham paired with Phillip Price and Gareth Edwards. The match behind had Nick Faldo and Jamie Spence and here was I, in the thick of it."

It got worse, he recalled, before it got better, as he told me about his golf experience of a lifetime and how he eventually played in a Sunday morning fourball an amateur golfer might only play in his dreams.

"It felt bizarre to be announced by Ivor Robson (the European Tour’s official starter): ‘On the tee Angel Cabrera…and his playing partner Steve Carr’. My trousers were flapping a bit, I can tell you," said Steve who managed to steer his tee shot in play and secure a stomach-settling par at the first.

After that the Luffenham Heath (Rutland) member, was on the crest of a wave. He had played regular club at Wheatley near Doncaster as a youngster with Ian Garbutt, now a European Tour pro, but nothing compared with this.

He had six birdies in contributing to a team score of ten under par – one behind the first day leaders – and even had his 15 minutes of fame, as predicted by legendary artist Andy Warhol. The Sky Sports cameras picked up his every move in the closing stages.

The pairing under-achieved on day two at Carnoustie, improving their score by only four (14 under) but at least Cabrera had found some form with a re-shafted Ping driver which, after misbehaving, he had purposely smashed into a gorse bush the previous afternoon.

The turning point for the pairing came on Day Three on the ninth hole at Kingsbarns, the classic links on the Fife coast.

"We were still only 14 under par and agreed we needed some birdies if we were to make the team cut and give Angel a chance at some extra prize-money," said Steve.

"We both got birdies but it was one of the three holes where I got a shot so it was a nett eagle and got us going. I hit my approach to the 11th to two inches and at the 12th, caned my drive 340 yards for another nett eagle to reach –19.

"Angel drained a 45-foot putt at 13 and with another birdie at 16 we reached 21-under par to make the cut by a shot."

Cabrera’s second successive 70 - the pros' own score also counted - earned him a shot at a big slice of the $5million individual prize-money on Sunday.

Said Steve: "I didn’t think it could get any better until at the gala dinner I spotted the draw for the following day…Darren Clarke, Paul Lawrie, Cabrera and Carr. Oh my God!"

And Clarke, the man who beat Tiger Woods to win the world matchplay and Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, didn’t disappoint.

"They were fantastic and told me not to worry about anything; we were just out for a nice Sunday morning fourball. They were all very encouraging and with Angel having his ‘game head’ on, shooting a 64, we managed to get the team score to 31 under par – and a share of second place."

Steve's best moment of the final round, he says, came at the 17th - The famous Road Hole.

"I hit driver over the ‘s’ on the Old Course Hotel sign in front of the tee and a 6-iron to 15 feet, to receive applause from the grandstand beside the green and congratulations from my playing partners. It was unreal.

"And at the end of the round, Darren patted me on the back and said ‘Stevie, you can be my four-handicap playing partner any time.’ After that, everything I do in golf will be an anti-climax."

So what advice can Steve Carr give those of us offered the opportunity to play with the professionals?

"Remember that these guys, even the top stars, are only human; there’s no need to be nervous. The only expectation is from yourself. People don’t expect you to hit it like the pros so don’t worry that you have to."



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