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Amateur Christo Lamprecht leaves mentor in the shade to lead Open Championship

Amateur Christo Lamprecht leaves mentor in the shade to lead Open Championship
Christo Lamprecht of South Africa tees off on the 18th hole on Day One of The Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on 20 July 2023 in Hoylake, England. (Photo: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

Recent winner of the British Amateur Championship Christo Lamprecht is the surprising joint leader after day one of The 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

South African amateur Christo Lamprecht left his mentor and former champion Louis Oosthuizen in the shade as he enjoyed a dream opening round to top The 2023 Open leaderboard on Thursday.

The towering 22-year-old was a picture of cool around the sunny Royal Liverpool links with seven birdies and only a couple of dropped shots in a five-under round of 66.

Oosthuizen, a surprise winner at St Andrews in 2010, has helped his compatriot Lamprecht since he was a teenager through his Louis57 Foundation, and while he struggled with a round of 74, he took great pride in his young apprentice.

Lamprecht, who at 2.06m, is one of the tallest players ever to play The Open, gazed at the leaderboard on the 18th green, then popped in a birdie putt to complete a superb morning’s work.

“It’s pretty surreal. It’s nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off. It’s something I haven’t dreamt of yet, but it’s pretty cool,” Lamprecht, who earned his spot by winning the Amateur Championship last month, told reporters.

Lamprecht said being paired with Oosthuizen, his favourite player growing up in the Western Cape and who has supported his golfing journey, was special.

“I think that helped a lot today,” he said, in an accent his friends tease him about for being too American, courtesy of studying Business Administration at Georgia Tech.

“I think having someone that I know very well and is a massive mentor for me and that I’ve played previously with, kind of helped me feel a little more at home. It was kind of a nice draw. I thought they rigged it by some means! I loved it.”

Big talent

Oosthuizen joked that Lamprecht was already taller than him when he first encountered him as a 14-year-old.

“He’s a great kid, he’s very patient, he’s got a game,” Oosthuizen said. Asked if had ever been beaten by him, he added: “Not by eight shots I haven’t.”

While an amateur atop the early leaderboard is surprising, Lamprecht showed not a hint of imposter syndrome.

“As an amateur, yes, (it’s surprising). But in my head, no, it’s not. I’m very hard on myself, and I think I earned my spot to be here. I think the way I played today I earned to be on the top of the leaderboard,” he said.

“It’s not a cocky thing to say. I just personally think I believe in myself. Stepping on to the first tee box if you’re a professional or a competitor, you should be believing that you should be the best standing there. I’m very proud of it.”

Lamprecht’s round-leading average driving distance of 325 yards helped take some of Hoylake’s penal pot bunkers out of play and his tee shots dwarfed those of Oosthuizen.

Height, and long levers, clearly help, but he said while bombing huge drives was “fun” it was not so important.

“I can get it to like 340 [yards] carry but I don’t want to. Not in this weather. Not in links golf. It’s not what I think golf is all about,” he said.

And while his physique clearly gives him an advantage, it has not always been like that.

“I was a little bit better than everyone at 14 to 15 years old, and then I hit the growth spurt and everything golf-wise was everywhere,” he said. “I was changing clubs every six months.

“I was growing so fast and my swing changed every week and it was all over the place for like two years.”

Tommy Fleetwood of England acknowledges the crowd on Day One of The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Fleetwood gives local hope

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood set the early pace, and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo made a monster putt to tie with Lamprecht for the clubhouse lead after the first round.

At five-under 66, the trio were one shot ahead of Antoine Rozner of France, Adrián Otaegui of Spain and American Brian Harman, with a pack of big names giving chase at the final major championship of the year.

Fleetwood, a home-crowd favourite who grew up about 50km away from the course, sank three straight birdies at holes 14 to 16 – punctuated by a 26-footer at the 16th – to post a four-under 32 on the back nine and tie Lamprecht.

“Such a special opportunity to play so close to home, (to) have that support and play an Open,” Fleetwood said. “I’m glad I gave them some good golf to watch.”

The last time an Englishman won The Open on English soil was Tony Jacklin in 1969. And only three amateurs have ever won The Open – the last being Bobby Jones in 1930. Reuters/DM

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