Over one hundred and fifty of the world’s elite golfers prepared to tee off and vie for The Open Championship at Royal St George for the most prestigious event of the golfing calendar eager to land the coveted Claret Jug, with emotional first time major victor Darren Clarke taking home the spoils with an impressive display of golfing prowess.
The distinct shape of the trophy now forms the instantly recognisable Open Championship brand identity, yet this iconic outline may never have come to fruition if it were not for a masterful young Tom Morris winning his third successive Open Championship title in 1870. Under the rules of the Championship, this entitled Tom to keep the original trophy – a red leather belt adorned with silver decorations.
The aftermath of having no trophy threw the Championship into turmoil and the resulting controversy meant for the first and only time with the exception of the World War I and II years that the Open was cancelled.
Architect and host in the early years, Prestwick Golf Club finally entered into an agreement with St Andrews and Musselburgh to rotate hosting duties of future Open Championships in return for help funding the commission of a new trophy and so the Claret Jug design was commissioned as a replacement.
However, instrumental in the events leading up to the cancellation of the Championship the previous year, Tom Morris must have felt a little cheated when he won again in 1872 and was presented with a measly little medal as the now legendary Claret Jug had taken over a year of exquisite craftsmanship and fine detail to create and was not quite ready in time for a hastily arranged Championship.
It may have been some consolation that his name was still the first to be engraved onto the silverware, a task that was customary for the reigning champion to carry out before relinquishing the trophy to his successor. While this practice was respected for an impressive number of years, a Championship engraver was eventually hired after 1967 champion Roberto di Vicenzo forgot to add his own name before returning the trophy… that and Gary Player emblazoning his name twice the size of the other winners!
The engraving of the trophy has become a customary highlight of the Championship proceedings transmitted live on the BBC around the globe minutes after the champion has been decided. Not surprisingly this added pressure heightens the requirement of a steady hand and keen eye when engraving the Claret Jug to avoid any embarrassing mishaps or spelling mistakes.
A game of distance and accuracy, golf requires the same focus and keen eyesight as the engraver, the outcome of both tasks can be decided by mere millimetres and as one-man activities, if they fail, they only have themselves to blame. Famously illustrated by Mark Calcavecchia after being awarded the Claret Jug in 1989, “how’s my name going to fit on that thing?” it’s clearly not just the players that have final day nerves to contend with.
Vision and the ability to see clearly whilst golfing are as important to your overall game as athletic ability which may explain why many top golfing athletes with less than perfect eyesight have opted for laser eye surgery including world number two Lee Westwood and fellow top world ranking players Phil Mikelson, Retief Goosen and the phenomenal Tiger Woods.
Glasses and contact lenses may provide adequate eye correction for most people, but for top athletes they can be more problematic especially for outdoor competitors contending with the elements as well as nerves. Hot weather perspiration can cause glasses to slip at the most inopportune moments while wet weather renders them as useful as driving in the rain without window wipers.
Contact lenses are not only more restrictive in the clarity of vision they can provide but can throw up additional hazards on the course like sand or dust getting behind the lens causing discomfort which can lead to not only a loss of focus in vision, but in the game itself.
As long as there is a winning desire to see their name engraved on the coveted Claret Jug, the golfing elite in need of vision correction will continue to use not only the latest technology in golf equipment, but the latest advancements in laser eye surgery.