18 Jul 2022 | Participation |

Play 9 winners relish St Andrews experience

by Dane Heverin

Play 9 winners Shane Ritchie and Ann Campbell at the first tee of the Old Course ahead of the R&A's 9 Hole Challenge Final.
Play 9 winners Shane Ritchie and Ann Campbell at the first tee of the Old Course ahead of the R&A's 9 Hole Challenge Final.

Nine holes at the St Andrews Old Course, a seven day access pass to the 150th Open and witnessing Cameron Smith's historic win in the flesh, it's been quite the week for Play 9 winners Shane Ritchie and Ann Campbell.

Shane and Ann won the trip of a lifetime to the 2022 R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final, and The Open at St Andrews, by winning the Play 9 national final at Huntingdale Golf Club in Melbourne earlier this year and they never could have imagined how incredible their time at the Home of Golf would be.

"They really laid it on for us," Shane said with a laugh.

The pair who originate from Gove Country Golf Club in the Northern Territory - Shane is now a member at Coolangatta and Tweed Heads Golf Club on the Queensland and New South Wales border - had the chance to play the Old Course on the Friday prior to The Open as Adam Scott played a practice round.

They were given the professional treatment too with a starter announcement at the first tee and a healthy applause from those gathered in front of the historic R&A clubhouse and alongside the famous fairway.

The nine holes consisted of holes one to four before turning around and heading for the home from the 14th through to the 18th, and the players were greeted by 45kmph winds.

Ann had 14 points, while Shane had 13 points with three pars in the tricky conditions and the pair produced a number of highlights.

"I got out of the bunkers! We only have three bunkers back home and they're a bit different to these ones so I haven't had much practice in the sand," Ann said with a laugh.

"There was a camera filming our tee shot on 17 and that was a bit nerve-wracking. I had to ask if the windows had been hit before.

"Then on 18 I hit my tee shot over the burn, walked across the bridge and hit a 7-iron onto the green in front of a few people around watching. It was a great experience to have to block out the fact there's people looking at you playing."

Shane also had a special moment at the last.

"I nearly drove the green on 18! It kept rolling and pulled up a bit short," he said.

Away from the golf course they had a number of pinch yourself moments.

They stayed at the famous Rusacks Hotel, which is located alongside the 18th fairway, for four nights and had a dinner with the other participants at the R&A World Golf Museum.

Another evening Shane sat next to Justin Thomas at dinner with views of Tiger Woods coming up the last during a practice round, while he also caught up with Australia's best Open debutant since 2005, Anthony Quayle, who also originates from Gove.

The R&A also organised more rounds of golf for them at other nearby courses and during the 150th Open they followed all the Australians closely and were present for a number of now iconic major moments.

Ann was sitting in the grandstand at the 11th green when Rory McIlroy holed out from the bunker for eagle on Saturday, but the biggest moment of them all was watching Smith come down the 18th.

"It's just a special place and you get absorbed in the atmosphere and the history of the game here," Ann said.

"It has been such a special week and I am so thankful for the opportunity Golf Australia and the R&A have given me."

Shane shared Ann's sentiments.

"I can't thank Golf Australia and the R&A enough. It has been amazing," he said.

Play 9 is back in 2022 and you can play your way to the national final at the Australian Open this December, and the 2023 R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final. Find out how here.

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