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Quaint Carnoustie shares a common bond with another small town in France. (Photo: Getty Images)
Quaint Carnoustie shares a common bond with another small town in France. (Photo: Getty Images)

TNT's Huber: My home away from home in Carnoustie

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TNT Emmy Award-winning essayist Jim Huber will be returning to Carnoustie for the Open Championship. In this exclusive column, Huber recalls his first trip to the tiny village in northeast Scotland -- and the family that opened their home to him.

By Jim Huber, Special to PGA.com

One of the problems inherent to almost any Open Championship held in Great Britain is where the incoming horde may sleep.

It has been eight years since the Open Championship was last played at Carnoustie, hard on the railroad tracks up the northeast edge of Scotland. It was 24 years between that and the one before. You don't build hotels, one would assume, when the world only comes to your door every once in awhile. Especially when your village is so small it is about to lose one of its key industries shortly-the jam processing plant.

And so the world, if it isn't allowed the keys to the clubhouse, which also serves as the only inn in town, must make do.

The last time I covered the Open there, in 1999, I found a room in a residence half an hour away from the course. The couple graciously moved out of their bedroom suite for the week and into their daughter's room. The daughter, just freshly 19 and a splendid thing indeed, was sent elsewhere. Never trust the unknown American.

We had a very nice arrangement, actually. The lady of the house would cook a very pleasant breakfast every morning and have several newspapers on hand. She would sit and chat me up while I ate and then send me off to work, her second man of the house to leave. The neighbors must have had a wonderful tussle with their imaginations that week.

At night, upon my return, she and her husband would be sitting in the small living room waiting for me. Whiskey, neat, at their sides.

"And how was your day?" would be the first question.

"How do the players like our town?" would be the second. (That one never came up again, as you might imagine.)

"This Tiger fellow?"

"The Frenchman? He can't possibly last, can he?"

After the second round that Friday, a second day of grumbling and mumbling, of gnashing and slashing and just plain horrible play, a few of us stopped at the Stag's Head Inn on the main corner of downtown Carnoustie for a pint and some chips. The place was packed and seemed to sway from side to side occasionally.

Suddenly, the noise level rose dramatically, as did those seated around us. Everyone rushed for the door.
We crowded the sidewalk to watch two blokes absolutely hammer each other from one side of the street to the other. Traffic stopped at all four corners as these men whaled away.

One would get an advantage, bashing the other's head on the cobblestone street until blood flowed angrily. The other would somehow stagger up, turn the advantage and drop his opponent with a haymaker that would have made Clint Eastwood proud.

Two police officers stood by, arms folded, waiting for this to play itself out. Smiles creased their worn faces as they muttered, perhaps making odds.

Finally, as though someone had blown a whistle or rung a bell, after a good 15 minutes it was over. The police moved in, helped each of them to his feet, blotted the gaping wounds as best they could and sent them on their way. The crowd, mostly outsiders in Carnoustie for the golf, moved back indoors shaking its collective head in astonishment.

When I got "home," my family was waiting, as usual.

"Well, what kind of a day did we have?"

I immediately went into a play-by-play from outside the Stag's Head Inn. No bloody detail was left out. My eyes, I'm sure, were huge and my hands delirious. When I finally stopped, out of breath, the woman simply laughed.

"Stag's Head?" she repeated.

"Yeah."

"Ah, just another Friday night in Carnoustie. Tell us about the golf, then."

It may happen in Augusta, perhaps outside Oakmont or Baltusrol, doubtfully at Pebble Beach, never at Winged Foot.

But the Open Championship is played in the smallest and quaintest of venues, always, with a centuries-old tradition of being part of the people. Ah, just another Friday night at (take your pick, St. Andrews, Troon, Hoylake, Sandwich).

It is what makes this one week a year so very special, sets it apart from every one major championship.

They've found me a small hotel this time around in the next town south. But I will surely seek out the Stag's Head on Friday night.


Jim Huber

Jim Huber is an Emmy Award-winning announcer with TNT. Check back during the Open Championship for more of his insights and observations from Carnoustie.


The views and opinions expressed here do not reflect those of PGA.com, PGATOUR.com or The PGA of America.

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