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The Beatles Story is a multimedia exhibit full of memories and memorabilia. (Photo: VisitLiverpool.com)

Check out Fab Four before Open golfers yell 'fore'

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Just down the road from Royal Birkdale is Liverpool, where you can "Meet the Beatles" and take a magical mystery tour of one of England's most interesting cities.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

SOUTHPORT, England - John, Paul, George and Ringo were teenagers in 1954, the first time the Open Championship was played at Royal Birkdale.

The four men who would become the most famous rock and roll band in history hadn't even met when Peter Thomson won his first of five Open Championships that Sunday.

Three years later, though, John Lennon and Paul McCartney began playing together in Liverpool, about an hour's train ride away from Royal Birkdale. Their band, first named the Quarrymen, morphed into the Beatles in 1960 - and music would never be the same.

A lot has changed as the game's oldest championship returns to Southport, on the shores of the Irish Sea, this week.

Thomson is retired and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Two of the Beatles are dead. Another, Paul McCartney, now 66, has gone through a messy divorce that landed him on the front page of the British tabloids once again.

The fascination with all things Beatles, though, endures - and the Liverpudlians, as residents of that sprawling port city are called, take great pains to keep the memory alive. You can fly into John Lennon Airport, for goodness sakes.

The easiest place to get your Beatles fix is on the banks of the Mersey River at Albert Dock, which was the heart of Liverpool's once-booming trade and shipbuilding business.

Albert Dock was the first enclosed, non-combustible warehouse system in the world. Container ships, though, made the docks obsolete, and the large brick warehouses have been turned into a series of trendy bars and restaurants.

Here's where you'll find "The Beatles Story." The multimedia exhibit includes - among other memorabilia - John Lennon's orange-tinted, gold-rimmed glasses, the band's gray Hard Day's Night jackets and George Harrison's first guitar.

As was the case when the band was together, Lennon and McCartney are the stars of the exhibit, which even features a recreation of the dingy, smelly Cavern Club, where the Beatles first made their mark in what came to be known as the "Merseybeat" sound.

You'll see the Beatles talking to Queen Elizabeth - she left the crown at home, if you're wondering - at the premieres of "A Hard Day's Night" and "Yellow Submarine." You'll hear commentary from McCartney as well as Lennon's sister, Julia, and his first wife, Cynthia, among others.

There's plenty of video of young girls, many of them who would now nearing retirement age, screaming at the top of their lungs and clamoring for a glimpse of their favorite Beatle. The U.S. debut on the Ed Sullivan Show is well-documented, too.

A 10-minute walk from Albert Dock takes you to Mathew Street, now part of the Cavern Quarter but once a dingy row of clubs and pubs that the Beatles and bands like Gerry and the Pacemakers frequented.

The Cavern Club was in the cellar of a warehouse that once saw Liverpudlians take refuge from the relentless bombing in World War II. John, Paul, George and Ringo played there 274 times - the last on Aug. 3, 1963 - and Brian Epstein, who would become their manager, discovered the band there.

McCartney said he loved the club but called it "clausterphobic hell," according to one local guidebook. The real Cavern Club is gone now - bulldozed to make way for the underground system - but across the street another one, built with some of the same bricks, bears the same name.

McCartney did perform at the new establishment once, on Dec. 14, 1999, before 150 fortunate fans. Across the street is a Wall of Fame that features bricks with the names of all 1,801 bands that played in the club between 1957 and 1973.

You can have your picture taken next to a cast-iron statue of John Lennon or Eleanor Rigby, and shop for Beatles memorabilia to your heart's content. Numerous books and maps direct you to other landmarks like Penny Lane, as well as the birthplaces of the Fab Four, their schools and even Lennon's mother's grave.

This week, though, the Magical Mystery Tour starts and stops at Royal Birkdale

Instead of the Fab Four, you'll see Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson and the rest of the boys perform on this hilly, barren stage. The prize for this modern Battle of the Bands is a tiny Claret Jug and the title "Champion Golfer of the World."

And the hits just keep on coming.

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