We wish close our close neighbours every success in hosting the world's greatest golf Championship this week and extend a warm welcome to the R&A who are using the facilities at Waterloo Road for the duration, and to all players, officials and visitors to the town. Southport RFC is pleased to be playing its part.
On 20th- 24th July 2017 our friends from ‘over the tracks’ have the honour of hosting the 146th Open Championship, the tenth time it has done so. Royal Birkdale is one of the world’s most cherished links courses for which Southport and the North West coast is well blessed. Since first hosting the event in 1954 alongside Royal Lytham and in recent years Royal Liverpool it has been the most regular venues other than St Andrews, the home of golf. For further information visit https://www.theopen.com/Heritage/OpenVenues/Royal-Birkdale
Southport RFC and Royal Birkdale GC are located within a few hundred yards of each other either side of Hillside Railway Station and each has a long fascinating and on occasion shared history even taking in the Open. The Claret Jug, one of the most iconic trophies in all of sport, was first presented in 1893 the year after the rugby club in Southport was formed which more recently has been delighted to make its pitches and clubhouse facilities available to help facilitate the organisation of the competition.
Both clubs front onto Waterloo Road which was built through the virgin dunes in the 1920s although Birkdale Golf Club which dates from the 1880s has been in situ since 1894. The rugby club relocated from Victoria Park (site of The Open Camp Site) 30 years afterwards following completion of the road.
The golf club built its distinctive Art Deco clubhouse in 1935, said to represent a liner sailing through the dunes, a year before the rugby club unveiled its own architectural masterpiece in the timber grandstand still standing proudly today although it has to be said somewhat less salubrious!
Birkdale was awarded “Royal” status in 1951 and members of both clubs, and Hillside GC betwixt, have built a convivial relationship over the years. Indeed folklore now suggests that on the rugby club erecting the tallest set of posts in the country on the main pitch a couple of seasons ago some wayward golfers now use them as markers as they fight their way through the towering dunes.
There are however more tangible links (no pun intended) between the respective clubs through esteemed members. Back in the early 1890’s Southport player and former England international C M Sawyer (capped v Scotland 1880 and Ireland 1881 whilst playing for Broughton) resided in Birkdale for many years and was Hon Treasurer of Birkdale Golf Club.
Latterly several Captains of Royal Birkdale have also donned the red, black & amber Southport RFC shirt and are proud patrons and sponsors including Mike Halsall, John Rostron, Sid Ludlow and last year Terry McGraw. Indeed both clubs benefit from patronage from many shared members.
Club photographer Angus Matheson also a member at Royal Birkdale commented on Monday "First day of practice for the 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.
"You are allowed to take photographs during practice days but not once The Open Championship starts on Thursday.
"The Spectators' Village is fantastic and the course is in the best condition I've ever seen in in 17 years of being a member. All credit to the staff who have worked so hard to make this happen."
The Open is a magnificent event for both clubs, and although the eyes are on the world sporting stage it still drills down to some great local trivia. For instance Southport born and bred golfer Tommy Fleetwood now establishing himself as one of the leading players in the game is a former pupil of Scarisbrick Hall School with whom Southport RFC has an excellent relationship though players & parents, community coaching and SAFES. With the R&A using the club facilities the Senior Men and Colts have decamped to train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings within the glorious grounds of Scarisbrick Hall generously made available by the school.
Ruck on Tommy!
Updated 20:40 - 23 Jul 2017 by John Kenny