Southport is a seaside resort on the west coast of England, about 20 miles north of Liverpool. This small seaside town that is popular with retired couples could claim to be one of the most significant locations in the history of sport. Of course it’s main claim to sporting fame is that it is the place of the birth of the Bet Enthusiast analyst but other lesser important features add to the town’s significance in sport’s history.
Royal Birkdale is a classic links course, set amongst huge dunes a couple of miles away from the town centre. The course is a regular host of the British Open but also staged the Ryder Cup in the past. Birkdale is often listed amongst the top 10 courses in the world and in the past has been voted the best course in Britain.
Birkdale, which is actually in the village of Hillside, last staged the Open in 2008 when Padraig Harington successfully defended the title he won a year earlier at Carnoustie. Birkdale’s next Open is to be confirmed but it looks certain the course will again host the most prestigious championship in golf over the next ten years.
If Birkdale is the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Southport’s courses then it’s worth noting that there are another three classic links courses within its boundaries. Formby and West Lancashire at Crosby, about 12 miles towards Liverpool, are other championship venues within easy travelling distance of Southport.
About two miles from the Royal Birkdale Golf Club is a car showroom called McCain’s. If you visited the stables behind the showroom you would find it difficult to believe that possibly the most famous and iconic horse that ever raced was trained there. Donald McCain had no gallops so took his horses to Southport beach and it’s there that Red Rum was prepared to win three Grand Nationals, a unique feat.
The wider sporting world will be aware of Royal Birkdale and Red Rum. However, few not involved with the local football club will know that one of its former players scored the fastest goal ever. On April 25th 1964 Jim Fryatt scored for Bradford Park Avenue against Tramnere Rovers after four seconds. The player made 39 apearances for Southport in the 1966-67 season and scored 15 goals. He also played for the club between 1971 and 1974, scoring 24 goals in 108 games.
Southport’s sporting heritage will be enhanced again next week when the Senior’s Open is played at Birkdale for the first time. The official website of the US Champions Tour indicates that Birkdale is in Merseyside. For some Southport will always be a Lancashire town and Lancashire Cricket Club play one Championship match there, at Birkdale Cricket Club.
Official golfing websites also refer to the championship as the Open, like it’s regular tour major while the US Seniors Open is described thus on most sites. The winner of the regular Open is announced as the champion golfer of the year as is the winner of the over 50s equivalent. The north west of England is a huge sporting conurbation and sports fans from the area will flock to Royal Birkdale next week.
Back next week.