Stars Aligning for Amateur Phenom Christo Lamprecht at Royal Liverpool Open Championship
Somewhere in Heaven the Golf Gods are smiling, because a young amateur is leading the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, the club with, perhaps, the richest amateur history in the game.
South African Christo Lamprecht – who won the Amateur Championship last month at Hillside Golf Club - continued his remarkable hot streak, carding the lowest opening round ever fired in any Open Championship held at Royal Liverpool, a sterling 5-under 66. He stands tied atop the leaderboard with popular Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo. French golfer Antoine Rozner, American Brian Harmon, and Spain’s Adrian Otaegui trail by one shot at 4-under while a group of six players two strokes back includes newly-minted U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink, and India’s Shubbankar Sharma.
The six-foot-nine-inch, 22-year old Lamprecht posted seven birdies against just two bogeys, including a hole-out wedge from 55 yards for birdie on the par-4 14th hole that electrified the gallery and triggered a roar that reverberated all across Liverpool, Merseyside, and Blackpool.
In truth, his entire round echoed all across golf history, particularly Royal Liverpool’s. When and where was the last time an amateur golfer won the Open Championship? Bobby Jones himself, at Royal Liverpool in 1930.
That was the year Jones won the Grand Slam. (Jones also won the Open Championship in 1926 at Royal Lytham and defended his title successfully at the Old Course at St. Andrews the following year.)
But that was not the first time Hoylake was good to amateurs during the Open. The first editor of Golf Monthly Magazine, Harold Hilton, was a member at Royal Liverpool when he won the Open at Hoylake in 1897, defeating the great Scottish professional James Braid. It was Hilton’s second Open Championship, he won five years prior at Muirfield.
More recently Frank Stranahan, was runner-up twice in the Open as an amateur, once at Hoylake in 1953 where he finished second to Ben Hogan during the Wee Bantam’s Triple Crown Year. And, of course, this is the 25th anniversary of Justin Rose’s coming out party as an amateur where the Englishman burst on to the golf stage with a T-4 finish as a 17 year old still eating whippies and wimpies with Mum and Dad in their cottage. All England wiped away a tear as the kid left the stage waving and beaming brightly.
While Lamprecht agreed that seeing an amateur’s name atop the leaderboard at the Open, he’s not surprised it’s himself.
“As an amateur, yes, it is a surprise, but in my own head, no, it's not. I think I'm very hard on myself, and I think I earned my spot to be here,” he explained earnestly. “I just personally think I believe in myself, and I guess stepping on to the first tee box if you're a professional or a competitor, you should be believing that you should be the best standing there. “
That didn’t work on the first tee. He snapped hooked his drive into thick rough.
“The first tee shot was the only bit of nerves I had all day,” he admitted, chuckling. “I just kind of walked off the first tee box after hitting my snap hook drive, and my caddie just told me, listen, you're playing The Open as an amateur; no need to stress. We kind of had fun from there.”
Lamprecht springs from a deep fountain of golf, the South African golf academies that have been opened by that country’s greatest golfers. A student of Louis Oosthuizen’s Academy, Lamprecht considers the 2010 Open Champion his mentor and friend. Best of all, they are paired together for the opening two rounds, quite the comfort zone for the youngster, not that any reigning Amateur Champion needs it. But after all, this weekend is the de facto world championship of golf.
South Afrocan 6’9” size 13 shoe pme fpppt in bunker, one leg laying alongside [lpaying 180 degrees away . 3 under after 6 and 4-under after 10 …
Christo Lamprecht would hit the ground running at The 151st Open when you look at the mentors who gave him tips upon arrival at Royal Liverpool. Louis Oosthuizen lifted the Claret Jug at St Andrews in 2010, Charl Schwartzel was awarded the Green Jacket the following year and Branden Grace was the first man to shoot 62 in a major – doing so six years ago at The 146th Open just up the road at Royal Birkdale.
The trio were all happy to pass on knowledge to the Amateur Champion ahead of his Open debut but it was the 2010 Champion Golfer who has had the biggest influence on the 6’ 9” Lamprecht. When the two were drawn together in the same group for the opening round at Royal Liverpool, Lamprecht could not have been happier, Oosthuizen by his side, Lamprecht had a not-so-secret weapon.
“I think that helped a lot with my score today,” he explained. “I think having someone that I know very well and is a ginormous mentor for me that I've played previously with kind of helped me feel a little bit more at home and at ease.”
And for a final bit of synergy…or might it be fate…Lamprecht is a student and golfer at Georgia Tech University. His assistant coach is on the bag as his caddie this week. And where did Bobby Jones go to college?
“I kind of clicked with head coach Bruce Heppler. I went on a visit there three years, four years ago from South Africa, and I kind of resonated with him as a person and we just clicked from the get-go,” Lamprecht explained.
Heppler had a huge surprise in store for Lamprecht; Heppler had been on a a two-year mission to South Africa and learned how to speak Afrikaans. So when he met Lamprecht, he was able to start the conversation in Afrikkaans welcoming Lamprecht to Georgia Tech.
You know what they say about first impressions.
It was a rich golf environment to play golf within. Stew Cink, also on the leaderboard today at 3-under is a fellow Yellow Jacket. He won the Open on 2009 in a playoff over Tom Watson.
Is that perhaps more foreshadowing? By winning the Amateur, Lamprecht became the third South African to win the Amateur in the last six years and the third Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket to win the Amateur Championship, again joining Bobby Jones, who won the championship as part of his 1930 Grand Slam year. Charlie Yates also won the 1938 title at Royal Troon.
“I loved the program at Tech,” Lamprecht stated energetically. “Having Stewart Cink and guys like that that we can see week in and week out and feeding off it's an amazing program.”
If he keeps playing with that same carefree sprit and prodigious talent, we’ll all be Yellow Jacket fans, just like we all became Michael Blick fans at the PGA Championship in Rochester and Wyndham Clark fans in sunny L.A. And if Lamprecht does manage to channel Bobby Jones and become the first amateur to win the Claret Jug in 93 years, we’ll all stand up and cheer. Because it’s that indominable amateur spirit that fuels every kid with clubs and a dream. And that’s dream never leaves a golfer. Not ever.