Column: St. Andrews is a special place with special memories

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Jul. 16—I was really hoping that the dateline on this week's column would be ST. ANDREWS, Scotland.

It's a big week in golf and the sport's oldest championship, The Open — I still prefer calling it the British Open — is being played at the Old Course in St. Andrews. It's the home of golf.

My wife and I and two of her lifelong friends traveled there in 2015. It was a dream trip for all of us as we started in London, took in a day at Wimbledon and then took the train to Scotland. While I played golf and went to the practice rounds, they explored the Scottish countryside.

For a golfer, going to St. Andrews is akin to making a holy pilgrimage. I've been fortunate to go to the Masters Tournament every year for the past four decades, and for many that's a "bucket list" item as well. I've also been to Pebble Beach, Oakmont and Merion, to name some other special places in the golf world, in my previous role as a sportswriter.

Our foursome — Holly and Lisa are now my friends, too — vowed to come back to St. Andrews for the next Open there. But life happens.

COVID-19 canceled the Open in 2020, and that in turn pushed back St. Andrews' spot in the rotation a year to 2022. In the meantime, my wife and I sold our house and moved into a new one this spring.

In 2015, the ladies prepared for our trip abroad on a scale comparable to Gen. Eisenhower and the D-Day invasion by the Allies. You think I'm joking. OK, maybe a little; but there were intense planning sessions that went into all the details. When we didn't have any of those sessions, I knew the jig was up. We decided to skip it.

Each year Facebook reminds us of our trip when a "memory" photo pops up. I knew it was coming, and I even shared a few over the past week of that magical time. Perhaps our fondest memories were of the ice cream with flake, essentially soft serve with a chocolate wafer inserted.

All of the special events for the 150th Open, though, got to me. On Monday, the Celebration of Champions featured a variety of Royal and Ancient championship winners playing a four-hole tournament at the Old Course. Tiger Woods played, and Jack Nicklaus was there as an observer. How great was that photo of Jack and Tiger together on the Swilcan Burn bridge?

On Tuesday, Nicklaus received honorary citizenship in the Royal Burgh of St. Andrews. Only two other Americans had ever received that honor: Benjamin Franklin, in 1759, and Bobby Jones, in 1958.

After ending his major championship career with a walkoff birdie at the 18th hole at St. Andrews in 2005, Nicklaus didn't plan on coming back to the place where he won two of his three Open titles. But the honor, and its significance, was too great to pass up.

Jones, during his acceptance speech, famously said: "I could take out of my life everything except my experiences at St. Andrews, and I would still have had a rich and full life."

Nicklaus quoted Jones, his boyhood hero, during his acceptance speech. "I feel exactly the same way," Nicklaus said, according to Golfweek.

My week in St. Andrews was memorable, too. The only regret I had was that I didn't get to play the Old Course. I hope to rectify that in the next couple of years; we are talking about going back to the Open one day. Even if St. Andrews isn't the host, it's a great little town.

As of this writing on Friday, the 150th Open was shaping up for a great weekend. Many people have pointed out that Nicklaus won the 50th Masters at Augusta and Woods claimed the 100th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. We can only hope that a special golfer collects the claret jug today, in a special event, at a very special place.

Thanks for reading.