My two weeks off after Denmark went by in a flash, and before I knew it, I was in Holland for one of the most popular weeks of the year.....The KLM Dutch Open. In recent years, the tournament has been held at The Kennemer Club, and old fashioned semi links course about 30 min from Amsterdam. We stay in a little seaside town called Zandvoort, which has plenty bars and restaurants to feed and water us during the week. We even have the pleasure of walking to work as the course is just on the outskirts of the town. Throw in a decent weather forecast and we were looking forward to a good week.
Normally on a course we've been to before, I walk the course on the Tuesday morning, then meet Paul for some afternoon practise. Wednesday is pro-am day, so we use that as our practise round. This week was different. We were in a 4.30 9 hole pro-am on Tuesday afternoon, and had Wednesday to ourselves. Paul had flown on Tuesday morning, and when we got to the range at lunchtime, his back was a bit tight. After a few balls he knew it would be risky to hit any more, so he withdrew from the pro-am and hit a few putts. The intention was to play a few holes on Wednesday morning, but his back was still stiff, so we walked the course, and just did some short game. Come Thursday morning, the Chipster was fresh and ready to go..... The result, a bogey free nine under 61!!! It was Paul's lowest round of his career, and all without playing one hole in practice. Normally, this would give the the outright lead, but such was the quality of the scoring, we we're tied, with a host of 63's and 64's right behind us.
Friday was a very different day. Paul struggled with his ball striking, and there was a bit more wind. His head was firmly fixed on though, and he produced one of his best grinding displays ever, birdieing the 18th for a 71. It could have been a lot worse, but we were still in the hunt. Saturday was testimony to this......Another bogey free round, seven birdies, and a 63 was signed for. It turned out to be a bit of a Carlsberg Saturday for him , as Aberdeen defeated Celtic 2-1 at Pittodrie. It put us in a great position going into Sunday, just a shot off the lead, and playing in the second last group. We were paired with Thomas Pieters, Belgium's hottest prospect.
Both Paul and Thomas got off to the perfect start, birdieing the 2nd and 3rd. Two pars followed, then we had to wait on the 6th tee for around 15/20 mins. This didn't help our momentum, and Paul pulled his tee shot slightly, which ended up under a bush. There wasn't many options for dropping, and after a couple of swipes at it and two puts on the green, a double bogey six had stopped us in our tracks. With Thomas Pieters making birdie, the three shot swing was crucial. We were now chasing. Chippie dusted himself down and got on with the job in hand. Walking off the 9th green , after a good par save, I said to Paul " We're only four behind, let's put some pressure on him and test his bottle" Big Thomas promptly nailed it 320 down the fairway, wedged it to a foot, and calmly tapped in for birdie to increase his lead. "Aye, he's fairly *****ing himself now eh?" Was Chippie's retort as we walked to the next tee.....
Paul battled away, and eventually finished in tenth spot. The scoring had been very good on the final day. Thomas Pieters won by a shot from Lee Slattery. He is a tremendous player, and will be a big force in European golf in the future for certain. For us it was a 2nd consecutive top ten, and confirmation that Paul's game had returned to what we know he is capable of. We now have a week off before a big run of four tournaments, Starting with the Porsche European Open in Germany. I wonder what the prize would be for a hole in one???
Last year we didn't get to play in this tournament as Paul had to withdraw with a back injury on the Thursday morning, so I was looking forward to experiencing the vast crowds that had attended the event, and were expected again this year. The venue, in Aalborg, is in the north of Denmark, and the forecast for the week was good. I walked the course on Tuesday to familiarise myself with the course, and met Paul on Wednesday morning for some practice before our afternoon pro-am. One of our partners was a car salesman. He owned a franchise which sells 70% all the Mercedes in Denmark...Kerching$€£.
As is always the way of it, when you get a late pro-am time on a Wednesday. You tend to be off early on Thursday. And we were. I got back to the hotel at 7.30 on
Wednesday evening, and had a 4.30am alarm call on Thursday morning. Ouch. It was all worth it though , as the Chipster cruised round in a six under 65. Six birdies and no bogeys did the trick, and it was nice to get a long lie the next morning. The course at Himmerland is quite hilly, and the weather was hot each day, so rest was very important. On Friday, Paul was struggling with a blockage in his ear, which had been bothering him for a few days. After 13 holes we were 3 over for the day, and Paul was struggling. We called out the doctor who had a quick look, and arranged to see him after the round. This settled Paul a bit and he picked up a couple birdies coming in, and returned a 72, leaving us at 5 under and still handily placed. He went straight to the docs clinic and had some water removed from his ear, and by Saturday he was like a new man.
Our playing partner on Saturday was Soren Kjeldsen, who was born in Aalborg, and had a huge support following him. This was no more evident than on the now infamous 16th hole. Under 100 yards to a small green, which was banked up all around it by at least 4000 spectators. It was an amazing atmosphere. Chippie duly added to it with a birdie , and for the second time this week, returned a clean scorecard with 3 birdies and no bogeys. This put us at 8 under par, and in 7th spot, all set for a strong finish on Sunday. Again we were playing with Mr Kjeldsen, and again the crowds were huge. We were rocked back into our heels straight away on the Sunday, with a double bogey 6. Not the start we were after, but it almost turned out to be a good thing. It was now sink or swim. Chippie dusted himself down and battled away, picking up birdies as we went along, and not getting too hard on himself. He ended up with a two under 68, and 10 under in total , which moved us up a place into 6th spot. It had been windy all day and scoring was tricky. All in all a very good week. The weather had been great and the support from the spectators was immense. The golf had lived up to the occasion, and to top it all off, Chippie had a little treat in store...... A private jet home. Wehey!!!!! When we were on the 18th tee, there was a bit of a delay. Peter Lawrie was in the game in front and was concerned about missing his flight home( it was taking 5 and a half hours to go round!!!) he casually asked Chippie" When's your flight Paul?" The reply was quick "When we get to the airport" Chippie couldn't keep the smile from his face and I burst out laughing. Brilliant. Ten minutes after we arrived at the airport, we were on the runway. An hour and ten minutes later we touched down at Aberdeen airport. I jumped in a hire car and I was home two and a half hours later. It was a great end to a good weeks work. Hopefully we get to fly "Air Chippie" again in the very near future.