Its His Big Break - The Open

By George WhiteJuly 19, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship Hes here at the British Open, but only because his girlfriend fronted him the entry fee for qualifying. When youre 40 years old, a plumber by trade ' or is it a picture-framer by trade? ' you just dont have 110 pounds ($200) for a round of golf.
Warren Bladon is the gent, and viewers of The Golf Channel will remember him as one of the 'Big Break IV' participants at Carnoustie. Hes spent his entire adult life bouncing around golf courses, frequently just on the fringes of respectability, futilely searching for sponsors, maybe a sugar daddy or two who could pay his expenses while he won enough money to get over the hump.
Warren Bladon
Warren Bladon is competing in his third Open Championship.
It never happened. So hes taken a series of odd jobs, even ran a pub at one time for a friend. He works during the week, then when he can get into a competition or two ' mini-tour events, English county competitions, whatever ' he rushes out the morning of the event and tries to play serious golf. Not the best preparation, certainly. But thats the life of a non-sponsored golfer.
It's normal life for most people, paying the bills. It's day-to-day life, he said.
Ditto for the girlfriend, who makes a living working for an auto dealership. She works hard, comes in, gets paid, said Warren. Week and a half later, you're thinking you've only got so much money to last.
Card: Follow Warren at the British Open
So the lady put the qualifying fee on her credit card. And Bladon made the most of it. He finished in the top three out of 96 hopefuls, good enough to tee it up in the Big Show Thursday.
I don't have a great job, Bladon explained his predicament. It doesn't pay me that much money. At the time I didn't have the money to pay and she offered to put it on her credit card, so I accepted. She said on one condition - that you practice a little bit, so at least you give yourself a good chance of getting through the first stage. One-hundred-and-10 pounds for a round of golf is a lot of money.
Warren agreed to her condition, working from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then going to the course in his hometown of Coventry for a few holes, then some chipping and putting. But it isnt easy to find time for golf every evening when youre also doing a 40-plus-hour work week. He works fulltime framing pictures, making about $10 an hour, but a couple of days a week he augments that by doing plumbing for a friends business.
Oh ' that friend is also his caddy this week. How much is Bladon paying the caddy? He isnt ' the caddy is paying for the experience of getting to carry a bag in the Open. Uh, the caddy is also paying Bladons expenses at Hoylake this week.
You would think Warren is quite awed by the experience of playing such a momentous tournament. But he really isnt ' he has played in two British Opens in the past, and even competed once in the Masters. That was after he won the British Amateur. He even played The Memorial that year ' 1996.
His highlight of the week in Augusta was playing nine holes of a practice round with Jack Nicklaus. Bladon had been practicing all morning long and exhaustion finally got to him. He had to walk in, leaving Nicklaus and U.S. Amateur Steve Scott to carry on the final nine.
It was brilliant playing with him (Nicklaus), said Bladon. He said where the pins were going to be. It was wonderful, just what you expect.
Bladon had two long breaks from tournament competition - in his 20s when he didnt play from 21 to 26, then after he won the British Amateur at age 30, he basically quit the tournament regimen again at age 34. He plays only one or two tournaments a year, he says, which is where his career is now.

I don't like not play, he said, adding that he plays now twice a week at the local course since his various jobs take so much time. I'm still a professional golfer in the loosest term.
Bladon actually tried the U.S. tour school last year after The Big Break experience, but he washed out in the opening rounds of a local qualifier in Atlanta. The Big Break, incidentally, was most enjoyable to Warren. It was great fun, yeah. I got my Bridgestone clubs out of it, he said.
So, he got his clubs free. They dont come cheaply, you know. And he doesnt have the manufacturers chasing him like they once did when he played in the tournaments. Over the years I have (telephoned) a lot of them and said, I'd like some balls or something. And you get, No, no, no. Not here, not now.
And Bridgestone said, Yeah, we'll give you as many as you want.
It was sweet words to a man who has had to struggle for a quid or two most of his life. But he finally has gotten a break by making the Open field. He earned about $1,600 from final qualifying. And he is guaranteed at least $3,800 ' the last-place payoff ' for competing in the Open. That, he says, will enable him to repay the loan from his girlfriend for qualifying.
And, even more, it has proven something to Bladon. I think it just shows that I can play, he says, simply.
People have written me off, and I'm now 40. I don't think it's an age issue there's no reason you can't win the Open in your 40s. If I got on the European Tour, I think after a bit of time I could perform on that (tour) and stay on it. It just takes money.
Making his way trying to earn a living doing the trades in England has been an ordeal for him ' It's been up and down, conceded Bladon. I've had loads of highs and loads of lows. It's not been very steady.
Through it all, though, the love of golf has never once wavered. I love it. It's my passion, my dream, he said.
This week, he makes no promises, either to himself or his fellow tradesmen who are pulling for him. He wants to enjoy the moment with his lady, and when it is done, he wants to know that he didnt cheat himself out of one moment of fun.
I just want to do as well as I can, he said. I want to come off the course knowing that I haven't been overcome by it, and just control myself and hit the right shot at the right time.
And if I do that, then I'll be happy.
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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.