DEREK LAWRENSON: A delivery man for ICELAND who’s made £6,200 from golf this season gets to drive with Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau… moments like this are why we LOVE the OpenMy, how we’ve missed the Open and the glorious ways it lives up to its name A joyous thing about the Open is an unknown player can play alongside greatsIceland delivery man Nick Poppleton was joined by Mickelson and DeChambeau
One of the joys of the Open is there’s nothing to stop the qualifier you have never heard of putting his name down on the practice sheet next to Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.
So, shortly after noon on Monday, Yorkshireman Nick Poppleton was rewarded for his chutzpah when the superstar lefty and the Mad Scientist rocked up and joined him on the first tee for 18 holes at Royal St George’s.
You could say their circumstances are rather different. Poppleton plays Wednesdays- Fridays on the EuroPro Tour, where he has earnings this season of £6,200, and supplements his income on Saturdays as a delivery driver for Iceland. Now, it’s a glimpse of fantasyland.
Iceland delivery man Nicholas Poppleton (left) was joined by Phil Mickelson at The Open
My, how we’ve missed the Open and the glorious ways it lives up to its name.
The iconic infrastructure is all back in place, including the horseshoe grandstand around the 18th green and the yellow scoreboard. The small stand behind the first tee was easily filled as the two Americans raised their caps and breezily introduced themselves to Poppleton.
When the Open was supposed to be played here this time last year, Poppleton was on a break from golf, supporting wife Amber, a radiographer at Sheffield hospital. ‘There are times it’s more important to be a good partner than a good golfer,’ he said.
One tell-tale difference between the three was the hardware they carried on to the tee. Mickelson and DeChambeau rarely go anywhere in practice without a pricey TrackMan device that measures all the relevant particulars of each shot. Poppleton just concentrated on trying to hit the ball down the middle.
If Poppleton didn’t know what to expect from the famous duo at the start, he need not have worried. Mickelson is an inveterate chatterbox.
Poppleton, who’s made £6,200 this season, also got to play alongside Bryson DeChambeau
One of his most engaging traits is the way he engages with his gallery, and it wasn’t long before he was sharing his opinions about the big match.
‘It was just so much fun watching that game and I thought you might have had it won at half-time,’ he told his fans. ‘Man, it must be so tough to lose on penalty kicks.’
Thanks for that, Phil.
On the monstrously long par-three third, the oldest major winner in history raised a laugh after finding the putting surface with a three iron. He looked over at big Bryson as he prepared to play his shot and quipped: ‘Not bad for an eight iron.’
Mickelson chatted to Poppleton as he made his way to the green, asking him where he came from and where he played. Understandably, he appeared slightly nonplussed when Poppleton responded, in a broad northern accent: ‘I’m from right in the heart of Yorkshire, pal, and play at a little place called Wath in Rotherham, and at Pete Cowen’s Academy.’ Mickelson seemed fascinated by someone he recognised. ‘I never knew Pete had an academy,’ he said.
DeChambeau was quieter at the start and understandably so, given he has got plenty on his mind. He has been playing poorly by his standards, has a new caddie in Brian Zeigler to bed in and his ball flight is currently too high for links golf.
DeChambeau was less chatty with Poppleton and has been playing poorly by his standards
Despite some apocalyptic warnings on the electronic boards as they showed ‘heavy rain’, ‘high winds’ and ‘thunderstorms predicted’, this most unlikely trio played in warm sunshine for the most part, before Mickelson headed for his rental house near the 14th.
‘I simply don’t have the cash to afford something like that,’ said Poppleton, longingly.
DeChambeau stayed until the end and spoke glowingly of the man who freely confessed: ‘I can talk the hind leg off a donkey.’
Bryson added: ‘I like people who have inquiring minds. Nick was a lot of fun.’
The rain was pouring down as he made his way to the clubhouse, but Poppleton looked like a man in a daze. ‘They were just lovely human beings and that was a real pleasure,’ he said.
This is Poppleton’s first Open, and it’s already thrown up a day the 27-year-old will always remember.
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