AMERICAN ace Gary Hallberg has tipped The Renaissance Club in East Lothian to become one of Scotland’s great championship courses.
The 54-year-old visited the Gullane course last week to prepare for the Senior Open in Turnberry, where he’s three shots clear at the halfway stage.
And he is confident it will be staging big tournaments in the future, with the Scottish Open having already been mentioned as moving there one day.
“It’s a tremendous place and I loved playing there,” said Hallberg after catapulting himself to the top of the leaderboard in Ayrshire with a seven-under 63.
“It’s Scottish, it’s difficult and it’s beautiful, too. It’s a championship-standard, for sure.”
Hallberg also revealed that the stunning round he played in windy conditions yesterday had been down to John Harris, a Dunbar man who is one of the regular caddies at The Renaissance.
“I asked him, ‘how do you handle the wind over here?’ revealed the former PGA Tour rookie of the year after opening up a handy cushion on Bernhard Langer and Tom Lehman in joint-second.
“He said, ‘we lean on the wind’. I saw that as a positive and said to him, ‘so that’s a good thing’. He said, ‘oh yes, sometimes you need that wind to lean on a little bit’.
“By that, I took it he meant that when the wind is blowing sometimes you don’t have a choice when you are hitting a shot, unlike when there’s no wind and you’re undecisive as you can hit a draw or fade and high or low. So to lean on the wind if it’s a crosswind you you hit it up into the wind and let it come back. Into the wind you’re going to hit it low and downwind I also try not to hit it too high.
“What John said kind of changed my thinking for this week. So today I leaned on the wind and it was favourable.”
Harris would have been asked to be on Hallberg’s bag this week as well if the American hadn’t already lined up a friend to take on the caddying duties.
“He was a great guy and came out with some classic things,” he added. “I hit it in the bunker on one hole and he said, ‘there’s only room in there for an an angry man and his niblick’. That is the greatest thing I have ever heard – I loved it.”
Asked if he’d be rewarding Harris if he went on to win the over-50s major, Hallberg said with a smile: “Yeah, I’ll tell him to keep his head down and follow through.....and be nice to your elders!”
Stephen McAllister, who is attached to The Renaissance Club, missed the cut at Turnberry, as did Andrew Oldcorn and Kevin Phillips.
Two-over at the start of the second round, Oldcorn was back to level after picking up birdies at the first and fourth.
But the Kings Acre touring pro then undid that good work with a run that saw him spill six shots in four holes from the sixth. He eventually signed for a 77 to finish on nine-over 149, missing out on the final two rounds by a single shot after a high-scoring second day.
Phillips, the Winterfield club pro who came through pre-qualifying to earn his place in the field, was always facing an uphill battle to be around for the weekend after an opening 78. But he finished with a flourish, covering his last five holes in two-under, for a respectable 73 on a day when only two players broke 70. That put him a shot ahead of McAllister, who was three-over with four to play, but ran up a triple-bogey 7 at the 16th in between dropped shots at the 15th and 17th.