FUNNY things, names. We all have them and we all, for the most part, like being called the ones we were given. I certainly do and my mum takes issue when I call her ‘dad’. That’s the way things go.
As you wander anywhere around Royal St George’s this week or have done at any of the previous 139 of these annual competitions that have determined the Champion Golfer since 1860, you will have noticed the folks who organise this event like to call it ‘The Open Championship’.
It’s not called Trevor or Dave, it’s The Open Championship, or The Open for short. It says so on the scoreboards, on the official programme and on my press pass and armband. As you approach the village of Sandwich, the AA road signs point you in the direction of ‘The Open’, because, funnily enough, that is what it is called, and has been on all 140 occasions it has been played.
Had there been an open championship played prior to 1860 in a different country, I would be happy to call that one ‘The Open’ but there wasn’t one before those eight beardy fellas teed it up at Prestwick 151 years ago and so this one, here in Britain, is The Open.
It is the oldest open championship in the history of the game and the living embodiment of golf in its purest form, played on the same ground, or very like it, on the same island where the game was invented. It needs no further adornment or qualification, any more than St Andrews needs to be called the ‘Scottish’ home of golf.
It is not the fault of those eight members at Prestwick that they chose to institute their idea of an open championship before anyone else, just as no one holds it against Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts for coming up with the concept of a Masters in 1934.
And, incidentally, no one on my sports desk has ever asked me to call that tournament at Augusta National the ‘US Masters’, so it’s not even a consistent argument.
So what are they driving at, those people who insist on calling The Open, the ‘British Open’? There are national open championships elsewhere in the world, including the Irish Open, which is sensible enough to call itself just that without any cause for concern, and I am not aware of anybody from Ireland referring to it as anything other than the ‘Irish Open’.
Americans, on the other hand, often call their own championship ‘the Open’ but even the United States Golf Association, the governing body for the game across the Atlantic, has the good grace to call its own tournament the ‘US Open’.
Maybe it’s the absence of a sponsor that spooks them. In this age of needing to jazz everything up with bells and whistles and appendages presented by this, that and the other, maybe something as simply titled as The Open Championship is disconcerting.
It can’t be geographical uncertainty, could it? Sure, it happens to be in Britain, but so does London and we don’t call that British London to distinguish it from London, Ontario. It is the imitation, the likeness that makes the differentiation, just as the settlers in the new world named their big city New York rather than insisting the old York make adjustments to get itself in line.
Or is it a touch of resentment I detect? A sort of discomfort that the Brits got there first? I’d hope not. I’d hope that people would accept that some names are just meant to be. Croke Park will always be Croke Park, Wimbledon will always be Wimbledon and the City of Manchester Stadium will always be... well, we’ll say no more about that.
But as far as The Open Championship is concerned, one wonders why this is an issue at all.
And if they ever change it, you can call me Susan.
A PRICELESS history that stretches back 151 years provides you with indisputable evidence to lay claim to being the oldest major golf championship.
It does not, however, afford you reason to misname yourself.
Try as they might to call their mid-summer classic one thing, Royal and Ancient officials have to accept that it would be better if it were called something else. The Open Championship? Sorry, the British Open has a better ring to it.
Golf is a global game now. How many times have we heard that? So often that it’s universally accepted as gospel and since 23 countries are represented here at Royal St George’s, it’s hard not to appreciate how far and wide this wonderful game reaches. However, if you’re going to cast a massive net, you have an obligation to be sensitive to the landscape.
Calling it The Open when so many parts of the world to where you have ventured have tournaments that could also be called “The Open” seems snobby. It’s not like going back 116 years (as the US Open does) or 108 years (South African Open) or 107 years (Canadian Open) doesn’t warrant respect in the marketplace. To the good people of the United States or South Africa or Canada, the Open means one thing, while to Brits it means something entirely different.
Those who govern the game owe an obligation to clear up the confusion. As a good friend, who is adamant that this week’s tournament at Royal St George’s should be called The Open Championship, said to me when asked why a course in the Republic of Ireland couldn’t host the world’s best golfers: “Because, it’s held in Great Britain.”
Ah, it’s “British.” So let’s call it that.
Fact is, a huge part of the world knows it only by that name. So what’s wrong with conceding such a reality?
Times have changed. It may have worked well to call it the Open Championship for years, but guess what? It also worked well for years for pros to make the trip over via boat, but they’ve discovered another way, haven’t they? Time moves on. People adjust.
It has served tennis well to distinguish between three-quarters of its major championships — Australian Open, French Open, US Open — and for those who might insist on calling it the Championships at the All-England Club, it’s hardly hurt the event to be called simply Wimbledon for years, has it not?
Where we now have The Masters, we once had what was called in 1934 the First Annual Invitation Tournament.
Ask someone in the United States who won the Open? Most likely you’ll hear Rory McIlroy. Are they wrong? Not really, not when you consider that all things are provincial, but in a sports landscape that is getting more and more crowded, where’s the harm in having clarity and definitive identifications?
But it’s been the Open Championship for years and years? Well, the US Open has been the Open to Americans for years and years. Surely, the same is true for golf fans in Canada and South Africa.
It is no different than Europeans, Aussies or Asians asking for more clarity to the PGA Championship.
Surely there are many throughout the world who would think you might be referring to the BMW PGA Championship or the Australian PGA, so if we accept the premise that it should be known as the British Open, how about throwing in that the season’s final major championship should be the American PGA Championship?
Calling it the British Open doesn’t put a dent in the championship’s charm. It keeps a 151-year history safe.