Most of you know after reading my column week in and week out that it is no secret I am a golf fan. This upcoming week holds one of the best tournaments of the year in the Open Championship.

Now we as hearty Americans call it the British Open, but truth be told there is no need to throw the first word of that sentence out there. This is THE OPEN. Not the United States Open, the Canadian Open, French Open, Scottish Open or Australian Open.

THE Open Championship.

The oldest of what is considered golf’s majors first played out over the great course at Prestwick, just a wee bit south of Glasgow on the Ayshire coast. It was held the first time in 1860.

Willie Park Senior edged out Old Tom Morris that year. The prize was the Challenge Belt, purchased by the members of Prestwick Golf Club. There was no prize money, but the winner received custody of the Belt for the year. If a player won the Belt three years in succession, it would be his to keep.

This was eventually done by Tom Morris’ son Tommy Jr., or as he was more popularly known, Young Tom. In 1870, just 10 years after this tournament began, Young Tom won for the third straight time and the Moroccan red leather belt was his to keep.

No Open was held in 1871 mostly in part as no replacement award for winning had been commissioned.

Finally in late 1872 an agreement was reached between three clubs that were to host The Open — Prestwick, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (now based in Muirfield) and The Royal and Ancient Golf Club (more commonly referred to as St Andrews) They decided that the winner would receive a medal and that each of the three clubs would contribute £10 toward the cost of a new trophy, which was to be a silver claret jug, instead of another belt. Its proper name was to be The Golf Champion Trophy.

Today the winner each and every year hoists the Claret Jug after being announced as the champion golfer for the year.

This year my pick and nearly everyone else’s pick will be Tiger Woods. A host of others will be looking to win – can Padraig Harrington do it a third straight time?  Can Sergio Garcia break his string of top ten finishes and break through to win?  Will it be the hot hand of a player such as Martin Kaymer or Paul Casey?  What about one last hurrah for Colin Montgomerie?

That is what makes this so special,  many players, most of which the casual golf fan has never heard of, representing a variety of countries.  A diverse International field … This is

The Open Championship.

Tune in this weekend to early morning coverage each and every day, and see golf as it was meant to be played, in its purest form, among the links of it ancestral home on the Scottish Coast.

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Johnny Goodman writes a weekly sports column for The Soap Boxers. His articles can be found in The Goodman File.

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