Woosie's motorway moment

One story not in his autobiography

Woosie's motorway moment

Ian Woosnam’s latest book, currently challenging Mark James’ ‘Back into the bearpit’ among the best sellers in the sports category, raised a few eyebrows when it revealed the true story about the fiasco at the 2001 Open Championship.

Woosie's motorway moment
Woosie - motorway moment.

He was penalised two shots for carrying an extra driver he had been testing on the range and effectively lost The Open because of it.

His caddie, apparently, had been acting strangely beforehand and to many by-standers the momentous cock-up that followed came as no surprise.

Much of Woosie’s life has been well documented but one story that is not in ‘Woosie: My Autobiography’ (Published by Collins Willow, £18.99) was told to me by Joe Higgins, a pro well known in the PGA Midlands region who spent many of his formative years with the Welshman.

The pair travelled together around Europe competing in far-flung tournaments and barely scraping a living. They shared a camper-van, complete with striped awning and often pitched up for events without a square meal inside them.

"We did eat a lot of baked beans," Joe admitted " and often lived on apples we’d scrumped from local orchards on our travels."

He recalls that in 1981 the pair had played in the Northern Open in the north of Scotland on the Sunday and their next date was Milan in Italy on the Wednesday. There would barely be time to get back to Oswestry to pick up clean clothes before they had to be on their way and heading for Dover for the Channel Crossing.

As Ian had not passed his test at that time, Joe did all the driving but when they reached the top of the M6 motorway they were behind schedule in their bid to reach Italy.

Hardly able to keep his eyes Open, Joe decided there was only one thing to do. Ian would have to drive, even though he’d only ever steered a tractor on his dad’s farm.

Woosie, objected initially but Joe convinced him it was only a case of putting it in top gear, sticking his foot down and staying in the middle lane. He should wake him to take over when they reached Stoke-on-Trent and the Oswestry turn-off.

Hours passed until Joe woke up suddenly with signs for Wolverhampton flashing by.

"What happened? Why didn’t you turn off?" screamed Joe.

"You didn’t tell me how to," came the reply.

Later that year, Woosie failed to qualify for The Open at Royal St Georges, when he struck the ball out of bounds. He decided to quit the circuit but couldn’t even get the job as club pro at his home club in Oswestry.

He gave it one last try and won the European Under 25 title and the Swiss Open in a playoff with Bill Longmuir. The following year he won the Silk Cut Masters, finished fourth in the Volvo PGA and made his Ryder Cup debut, earning a half a point in a fourball with Sam Torrance against Ben Crenshaw and Calvin Peete.

The rest, as they say is history. Woosie has come a long way since then - and has his own private aircraft to ensure he gets to events on time - but the hairy motorway moments still give him goose bumps.

What’s your favourite Woosie moment? Tell us on the Forum.

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