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Home Ceremonial tee shot filled full of nerves

Everyone knows the nervous feeling on the first tee. For Alistair Low, however, it went to an entirely new level. Jitters are common, even for professionals before an opening tee shot is struck. For recreational players, like Low, the juices get flowing even more when you’re in St. Andrews, home of the Old Course. Today wasn’t any ordinary day for Low, punctuated by the opportunity to hit an opening tee shot on the old girl.

p5Low began his year of office as the Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews with the traditional driving-in ceremony on the first tee of the Old Course. What many avid golfers may not know is the shot is accompanied by simultaneous cannon fire. Low teed-off at precisely 8am, local time, in front of a large crowd, which is another reason to experience performance anxiety. “I was pretty nervous I must say,” Low said afterwards. “It all got to me in the last couple of minutes but I think it was an alright shot. I kept it on the golf course at least.”

Low, a retired actuary and graduate of St Andrews University, is a member of the R&A since 1968 and has chaired the Championship Committee from 1985 to 1988. He was subsequently Chairman of the General Committee between 1991 and 1994 and was also Chairman of the Scottish Golf Union from 2002 to 2008. “I’ve always enjoyed coming here so I am particularly looking forward to spending more time in St Andrews,” the resident of Gullane said. His position as Captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club will see him travel the globe representing the Club and the game of golf. “I will be an ambassador for the club, flying all over the world and I will be in attendance at all of the major championships run by The R&A.”

The Club’s ‘Captain of the Golf' was originally determined by the annual Challenge for the Silver Club with the best player on the day becoming Captain for the year. However, around 1806 the Captaincy had become an elected office and the Challenge became a symbolic competition.

One tradition that has endured is the awarding of a gold sovereign to the caddie that successfully retrieves the ball struck by the new captain and returns it to him. Oliver Horowitz, now in his sixth season on the links, successfully returned the ball after attempting to catch it. “When he hit it I was way over on the left and I suddenly realized he had hit a bit of a cut and it was going right. I saw it in mid-air, caught it with my left hand on the fly but dropped it,” the 25-year-old filmmaker from New York, who will caddy for musician Huey Lewis at next week’s Dunhill Championship, said. “So my hand is now throbbing as we speak and will be black and blue tonight but it’s definitely worth it.”