20 July 2023 – As Christo Lamprecht stood over the ball on the 18th tee on the opening day of the 151st Open Championship, his face was a canvas painted with intent, focus and a smidgen of joy.
He cranked his last driver of the day, watched it run out past the 320m mark, flashed a toothy smile at the spectators and set off with that signature loping walk down the fairway at Royal Liverpool.
There was a hint of bounce in the 2.03-meter (6-foot-8) frame after he mailed his approach to the final green, and understandably so.
The GolfRSA National Squad star had come through his first 17 holes in his Major debut in four-under-par, he held a tidy two-shot lead, and he was just three shots away from completing his baptism of fire.
As it turned out, Lamprecht only needed two more to own the early clubhouse lead on five-under and the 22-year-old took a moment to watch as the 66 go up next to his name on the imposing 18th hole leaderboard.
Those who had turned up to follow Louis Oosthuizen and instead got an eyeful of the reigning Amateur champion, left knowing they witnessed a round to remember. Plenty others following on television or online wondered how a college kid could outclass some of the biggest names in golf.
For those who have followed his career, it was kind of par for the course.
After all, Lamprecht won all three of his big amateur titles – the SA Amateur at Humewood, the East of Ireland at County Louth and the 128th Amateur Championship at Hillside Golf Club in England – on challenging links tracks.
“Links golf is a true test of golf; it’s the way golf is supposed to be played,” the George golfer said in his post round interview.
Lamprecht favoured his driver as he marched to a 3 & 2 win in the 36-hole final of The Amateur at Hillside, just an hour up the coast along the Irish Sea. With his standard drive measuring around 300m, everyone wanted to know why he didn’t employ the big gun more.
“I used the driver at Hillside because I could comfortably carry a lot of the bunkers; out here they are placed a lot better;” he explained. “You get quite a bit of roll here and I took advantage on a couple of holes, but I think a lot more around here. It’s The Open; it’s not going to be easy, is it?”
A look at his scorecard validates his decision to give the driver less of a work-out.
Lamprecht racked up a trio of birdies in a flawless outward loop, draining a 25-footer on the third and adding two more on the fifth and sixth holes. He lost the advantage of birdie number four on the 10th to a bogey on the par-four 11th hole, but a chip-in birdie from 36 meters on the 14th hole and a short birdie putt on the par-five 15th took him to five under.
After dropping the 16th hole, a tidy par on 17 and two great shots on 18, he tucked his first putt close and his four-foot birdie putt dropped against well-deserved applause.
“It’s pretty surreal; it’s nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off. I was a bit nervous on the first hole, but after hitting my snap-hook drive, my caddy told me ‘You are playing the Open as an amateur; no need to stress.’ After that we just had fun,” Lamprecht said.
He was having so much fun that, for the first time in his career, he upstaged Oosthuizen.
A graduate of Oosthuizen’s Junior Golf Academy at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay, Lamprecht played two practice rounds with the 2010 Open champion and Branden Grace. Having his mentor as a playing partner on day one of his Major debut was a confort, Lamprecht said.
“Having someone that I know very well and that has been a ginormous mentor for me, that I’ve played previously with, helped me feel a little bit more at home and at ease. He’s an amazing support, and he was supporting me the whole way through.”
Judging by the mental fortitude Lamprecht showed in a world-class field under first-class pressure, there is more to come as the Georgia Tech senior’s career takes flight, but however the next three days at Hoylake unfolds, Lamprecht will always own the joint first-round lead with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Argentinean Emiliano Grillo in his first Major appearance.
SA LEADERBOARD – ROUND 1
66 Christo Lamprecht (ama); Tommy Fleetwood ENG; Emiliano Grillo ARG
71 Thriston Lawrence
72 Ockie Strydom
73 Branden Grace; Martin Rowher; Christiaan Bezuidenhout
74 Louis Oosthuizen
75 Ernie Els
76 Kyle Barker
77 Charl Schwartzel