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180,000 attended 'enormously successful' Open

VICTOR: Ben Curtis kisses the Claret Jug. Picture: MATT WALKER
VICTOR: Ben Curtis kisses the Claret Jug. Picture: MATT WALKER

HUGE crowds, glorious weather and a surprise winner made the 2003 Open championships at Royal St George’s at Sandwich one to remember.

Organisers Royal and Ancient Golf Club said their impressions of the week were that it had been an enormous success.

David Pepper chairman of the championship committee said: "The course has been exactly what we hoped, a fast running links course.

"It isn't the type of course the players play every week of the year, but it is getting back to what the game was originally played on.”

Peter Dawson, secretary of the R&A, said the huge crowds played an important part in making the event such a success. "There was a good buzz about the championship," he said. "Over 180,000 people came, which is a considerable increase on when we were last here 10 years ago.

"It is right up there with the best level of Open championship attendances we get outside of St Andrews."

Mr Dawson said the support from Royal St George's Golf Club had been terrific.

"Their members have been very enthusiastic and I know they are looking forward to staging the championship again," he stressed.

Organisers of the championship were delighted to see someone come out of the blue to win it.

Ben Curtis, a 300-1 outsider at the start, caused one of the sport’s biggest shocks, by winning by a stroke from Dane Thomas Bjorn and Fiji's Vijay Singh.

Mr Dawson said: “Ben was a nice young man with a strong amateur record, but very much a rookie as a professional. It will be fascinating to see how his career develops. Let’s hope he goes on to great things.

“He is a very pleasant individual and I very much enjoyed speaking to him.”

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