ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Sporting a camouflaged collegiate bucket hat and looking every bit like tourist on a bucket-list trip, Barclay Brown is in contention at the 150th Open Championship.
The 21-year-old capped off a 4-under 68 Thursday on the Old Course, placing his name near the top of the leaderboard.
"I was unbelievably nervous at the start," Brown said. "And then once I got through the first couple of holes, yeah, it was nice to kind of calm down a little bit and hit some good shots and just get into it."
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Brown is a senior at Stanford University, but English by birth. More exact, he was born in Sheffield, England – also the birthplace of reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. Brown has ties to the Fitzpatrick family, having teamed with Matt’s brother, Alex, in last year’s Walker Cup at Seminole. Now, he’s in St. Andrews, thanks to being medalist at his Final Qualifying site.
And while he might have looked like an outsider playing the ultimate destination 18, there was nothing amateurish about his results, as he made five birdies and one bogey in the opening round.
Seven years ago, amateur Jordan Niebrugge shot 67 and was two off the 18-hole lead. But it was fellow amateur Paul Dunne who is most associated with the 2015 edition at St. Andrews. The Irishman held a share of the 54-hole lead, only to close in 6-over 78 and tie for 30th. Niebrugge, in the end, was low amateur that week, tying for sixth.
No amateur since Bobby Jones, in 1930, has held the claret jug.
Brown competed last week for England in the European Amateur Team Championship at Royal St. George's and is staying in St. Andrews this week with his parents, brother and girlfriend. This isn't his first trip around the Old Course, as he played it when he was "9 or 10 years old," but he recalls more from watching it on TV than from that early-life experience.
Speaking of experience, Brown said he's received a few words of Old Course advice from a pair of Open champs, Nick Faldo and Darren Clarke.
"They really said keep it out of the bunkers and get good at hitting 60-foot putts," he said. "They should have said hitting 160-foot putts."
Brown stated that his goal is to win the silver medal for low amateur. But, for at least one day, his name shone bright on the big, yellow board.
"Yes," he said. "It was nice to see that walking up the 18th."