Ben Coley's overdue Open Championship diary: Hitchhikes and karaoke

Shane Lowry celebrates winning the Open at Royal Portrush
Shane Lowry celebrates winning the Open at Royal Portrush

'How about a diary?'

Every year, someone says it. Go to The Open and write a diary. The trouble is, most years my Open experience is more file-o-fax than diary: 6am alarm, 7am blog, 7pm dinner, 9pm report, 10pm regret, 11pm bed, 6am alarm, etc. Maybe some of the minor details might have been interesting once, back in 2013, but apart from that time my switch to cross-handed paid dividends in a putting competition at Hoylake, or the time I overheard Gary Player telling a steward just how to steward, there wouldn't have been much to go at.

I never was a diarist, anyway; never did get quite why Adrian Mole kept measuring his penis. These days, I'm definitely more Matt Wolff than Virginia Woolf; more Adam than Robert Falcon. I remember reading my sister's diary once (a mortal sin, I know) and it was a bit dull. Not that it spared me a week of pretending to be repenting.

So when someone - I forget who - said 'how about a diary?', some time back in the spring, it's likely that I rolled my eyes. It'll go like this, I'll have thought: bus to airport, fly to Belfast, train to Portrush, find media centre, find house, journey back and forth, dawn and dusk, train to Belfast, fly to Leeds, bus back home.

I wasn't completely wrong - these core details did all basically happen - but by Sunday I felt it. This hadn't been just another Open Championship. This had been The Open Championship, the 148th of its name, and it bloody well deserved a diary. Here, five months later, is my attempt to salvage something from the week, one I would call 'memorable' if nothing else, and yet the smaller details are hazy. The memories themselves are there, flickering like the flame of a Narnian lantern, but hidden by a creeping frost.

Monday

This is my problem with a diary: the arbitrary nature of it all. Here I am, starting on Monday, like everyone else. And yet I spent Monday recording a podcast and writing a preview and writing another preview for someone else and packing my bag (one bag, 55x35x20, etc.) Told you diaries are a waste of time. I don't even know what tense to write in which, as I begin writing, is a bit of a problem, one which will haunt me come Wednesday.

Tuesday

Packed and ready to go. Boarding pass printed, bag packed, and so on. Turns out, now I'm typing it, that I drove to the airport, picking Dave Tindall up along the way. It was nice to catch up, probably. I can't remember. It was in July. I do remember that our flight was delayed, first by some insignificant amount, half an hour maybe, and then by an hour. Then a couple of hours. The Flybe person was nice, though, and gave us £5 each to spend on food and drink. Me: meal deal with crisps; Dave, meal deal with fruit. Different snacks for different... needs.

We found somewhere to sit, eat, and then crack on with some work. I remember we talked through just about every player in the field as a potential first-round leader candidate, and I distinctly recall feeling as though me yammering on about Brandon Wu or Ashton Turner was having the opposite effect to that which had been intended, clouding the mind of someone who doesn't need my help. Can't remember who we settled on between us, but don't remember celebrating much 48 hours or so later.

Then we got moved, because we were in the area designated for those in need of assistance. Fair enough. It was a little bizarre though: the person in the Hi-Vis (or is it hi-vis, like Hoover is just hoover?) made an almighty fuss, causing just about everyone to feel uncomfortable. I think this was the first time I wished I had stayed at home and covered things from my house. Still, free chicken and bacon sandwiches taste fantastic, even if you have to eat them on the run.

Flight: uneventful, just how I like 'em. No clapping when we touched down, and just the right amount of golf atmosphere. The previous October, when I'd flown back from the Ryder Cup, you couldn't move for paraphernalia, memorabilia, and an American man explaining to a British woman that her experience of the golf hadn't quite been as good as his. LOOK AT THE SCORE, PAL she ought to have said.

Here, on the Belfast flight, there appeared just the right ratio of what's-going-ons to let's-get-it-ons; golf was in the air all right, but you had to work a little to smell it, especially when the man next to you has ordered a panini. The flight is about 25 minutes, pal. Could you not wait?

Can't remember how I spent those 25 minutes, except in anger. I was probably also chuckling to myself about all those people who say you write too much. Ha! Idiots. Wait until they read the diary I'm going to write. Shall I write it now, as I go? No, no. Write it in December, while you're watching the darts and your dad's on speakerphone telling you why the Labour Party is irretrievably f****d. Great idea.

When we landed, there was a little booth, easy to miss, for those travelling on to the golf. Instructions were clear, and even the lady's foreboding insistence that we take one of the free ponchos couldn't dampen (ha!) spirits. Dave and I felt fantastic. In fact, Dave evidently felt so fantastic that he decided to take a picture of a vending machine. I've only one other memory of Dave asking me to wait while he takes a picture, and that was when we ran into Ronnie Corbett at Muirfield. People are fascinating. So are snacks, which in this vending machine were called 'Taytos', I feel sure of it.

Anyway. Bus, train, all the way to Coleraine. More typing, more previews, less faith, and I wished I hadn't given Dave that flapjack. I tend to have a crisis most Tuesdays, but it's particularly intense around major weeks: when you've been writing profiles of every player, it becomes Harding to stay In-Choon and you Pavan a clue whether you'd concluded that the amateur fella was worth a Thurloway bet, who your Finau outright selections were, even what Day it is. As we rattled through stations I started to wonder which, if any, of these 10,000 words will have been well spent.

We're here! Portrush. Living the dream. The course? Must be down this road, because there is the sea, and if I know anything it's that Royal Portrush, ancient and holy ground, is next to the sea.

'Hello, Mr Policeman, where is Portrush, the golf course?'

'Behind you, up there.'

Turns out it's behind us, up there, so we traipse - and I do mean traipse, for it has now been a long day, and we're walking the opposite way to those who've had their fix and are off to the pub - all the way there. I think the mood had just about turned as we followed instructions which appeared to be sending us away from the entrance and further from the sea, but there goes Henrik Stenson, I must remember to thank him. That's the thing about The Open, maybe golf in general: spend long enough traipsing, and you'll probably see a golfer, just walking around in bold-coloured Polo clothes as if it's the most normal thing in Knightsbridge.

We surmised that Henrik - H, the Iceman, Big Hen - was off to Gary Woodland's barbecue, because about 50 yards before we came across Stenson, we'd come across Woodland, and he was at a barbecue, bossing the tongs like a major champion should. What a life these people lead. There was even a disc jockey in the garden, playing thumping music without a trace of irony as quite a lot of rich thirty-somethings mooched about. Had we stayed just a little longer, I'm sure Kendall Roy would've emerged to do a rap. H to the O-G, A-N, perhaps.

Finally, we get through security and walk across the first hole. You won't believe me, but it's true: Dave and I talked about how innocuous it looked, but how strange the out-of-bounds was to the left. I mean neither of us expressly said 'Rory McIlroy is going to hit it over there on Thursday,' but some things are left unspoken. Usually because nobody has even considered them.

When I first went to the Open as a member of the media, I was a little scared. That's just me, I'm afraid, and you know someone like me: the friend who wants to know precisely what time you'll be arriving at the pub, so as to avoid having to be there first and pretend to be all cool about it. Once, on a stag do, I got to the bar about five minutes before the other 19 people were due. I bought 20 pints, because I'm a good person. I sat, alone, with those pints, for an hour. One drunken rugby fan (we were in Bristol) came over and started playing draughts with them. Fair enough.

But when you've been to six or seven Opens, and more specifically, when you've been travelling for about eight or nine hours, it turns out the media centre feels like a sanctuary. We had made it, and here were our seats, directly behind the Guardian. Later in the week, I'll look up to see Sean Ingle search 'synonyms for rain', and it'll make me feel slightly less inferior to a brilliant writer and, it turns out, a really nice, softly-spoken and well-dressed man.

Little else to say about how the next few hours unfolded, but we then made our way back to the house. Matt Cooper, Nick Metcalfe, Dave, and me. I'd never met Nick before. He works for the Metro and is a familiar face, but I'd never spoken to him in the six or seven previous years. What a waste. True, I did leave my elders (despite appearances) reminiscing over 1980s TV - The Boy From Space in particular - and momentarily feared I'd have to spend all my energy pretending to know what everyone was going on about. By the end of the week I'd learned that friendship needs only music, golf, and mutual love for the oxford comma to blossom.

It had been a long day.

Wednesday

Low-key stuff on Wednesday, at least for the most part. I think we got to the course on the bus, and I seem to recall being on Open Championship radio, but I couldn't say for certain that happened.

At some stage, and I don't know exactly what the time was, Dave and I decided to walk the course. It's easy to get swallowed up in work during a major championship and forget to actually take in your surroundings, but I'd learned that lesson in time for Paris, and I was going to stick to the policy in Portrush. In 2020, I'll either have to abandon it, or finally concede that dressing like a golfer - more specifically, a golfer who knows rain is on the way - is necessary.

There we strode, me in jeans and a thin, 'shower resistant' jacket, Dave at least in a vaguely sensible coat with a hood. Not that these details felt important as we found little pockets of sunshine alongside the second and the third, and worked our way down to the far end of the course, taking in the views at the fifth and sixth.

As we waited between a tee and a green, Matt Wallace strode past. For some reason, I took this as an opportunity to find out, once and for all, if he is as much of a dickhead as some people on twitter seem to think. 'Play well, Matt,' I said, completely missing the sweet spot between goodwill and cool. 'Cheers,' he muttered, absolutely flushing dismissiveness. I can't say I blame him. It's about three o'clock on Wednesday and he's all business. Except when he stops to have a wee basically in the middle of the player walkway down to the next fairway, shortly after having barked something at his caddie after a slightly skewed drive.

It was about the time Wallace had tucked Gromit back in that the heavens opened. You hear that phrase a lot, 'the heavens opened', but you don't really understand it until you're about a mile and a half from the media centre, dressed for a balmy summer's eve, and the heavens do actually open. I've never experienced rain like it, and by the time we'd made it through puddles and ponds, I was completely sodden, grey jeans turned black, glued to my legs; jacket achieving the wet look that VO5 have been promising since the 80s. I was dripping all over the place and each sullen step made clear my stupidity to the prepared, professional members of the media who I felt certain were trying not to laugh.

All except Phil Casey, who very briefly became the most important Casey in golf by coming to my rescue. Phil, one of those who made an effort to introduce himself way back in 2013 or whenever it was, saw that I was in distress, and went and got me a change of clothes from his locker. Never have I been happier to slip into another man's socks, and for a person who stresses about clothes being too big or too small, I cared not a bit that the Under Armour's quarter-zip was more half-zip on my juvenile frame. What an absolute hero.

As I dried off (respectfully, I had to turn down the trousers), focus shifted to the evening. With late finishes guaranteed over the four days to come, Wednesday felt like our best chance to get to the Harbour Bar, where Jamie Weir off of the telly was trying to get the balance right: Guinness in hand, TV slot still to come. Some people are intimidated when speaking to people in an entertaining way. Not Jamie. He'll be fine, I remember thinking, before we went inside to witness the slickest pint-pouring operation, a triumph of western civilisation. It takes 119 seconds to pour the perfect pint, and I was stressing about that fact as I head-counted 30 punters all ordering the black stuff. I needn't have worried, and we were soon upstairs, with a seat, breathing out.

That's when Dave got recognised, not that I remember the specific moment, or the feeling which overcame me when I realised this dude - an Irishman who likes a bet - didn't have a clue who I was. It's probably for the best, mind you. I've only been 'recognised' once, in a car park, while throwing away betting slips. It's not a moment I'd remember if I had any say in the matter. Once Dave had signed some autographs, we sank our pints (slowly - things can sink slowly, you know, such as hopes, dreams, or the Titanic) and went outside to find a taxi.

By this time, Matt had spiralled off to another bar, having arranged to meet someone, and again I was worried. Matt is one of those people it pays to keep close, because good things tend to happen, always as if by chance. Not like winning the lottery or opening a door to another world or discovering you're related to Sir Godfrey of Bouillon (true story), just day-to-day good things like hitchhiking with a pair of pensioners or getting free drinks or, in this case, finding your taxi driver.

'Yous with Cooper?' asked a ridiculously handsome man behind the wheel, who would later share his Spotify playlist with us because that's just a nice and normal and quite cool thing to do. 'Yeah, that's us!' Nick in the front, Dave and I in the back, down the road to Portstewart.

This won't be funny, because I presume you don't know Nick, but he likes to call people 'colonel'. It wouldn't work, if you did it, would it? It doesn't work when I do it. But when Nick does it, it works, and on that you will have to trust me. He's an old romantic, Nick, I could tell that by Tuesday evening, and by Wednesday, hearing him call someone 'colonel' was somehow comforting, already familiar.

Anyway, the purpose of that preamble is so that I can tell you what Nick said to the cab driver, as he flung us around a corner like one of the local motorbike riders he was keen to tell us about.

'Steady on, colonel.'

There are things you know you won't forget in a hurry, and that moment is one of them. Like I said, diaries are rubbish - wholly self-indulgent - but we've come this far, colonel.

Thursday

Action stations. Dave, Matt and I managed to get to the back of the first hole in time to see Darren Clarke birdie it, another one of this Open Championship's small flourishes of showmanship. As if it wasn't already enough to be here, on this piece of land; as if it wasn't enough that the skies had cleared; as it if wasn't enough that Graeme McDowell had qualified; as if it wasn't enough that Tiger Woods was a major winner again; as if it wasn't enough that the Amateur champion was from the South; as if it wasn't enough that this is where Rory McIlroy, the chubby kid from the North, had learned the game.

How we got to the first green in time is another story of what happens when you place your faith in Matt, who henceforth will be known by his Norn Irish name: Cooper. At around six o'clock that morning, Nick still happily snoozing like only a newspaper journalist could, Cooper, Dave and I got picked up, outside our house, by a charming local who Cooper had come to know. As if a taxi driver on demand wasn't enough, here we had a chauffeur, door-to-door. Tuesday's travel and Wednesday's soaking were well behind me now. And, once breakfast was dealt with (better than Paris, for those who got here via Jay Rayner's column), it was time to get stuck into the blog.

I've written elsewhere about what happened to Rory McIlroy, but it was one of those rare moments where the media loses its collective s**t. There were loud noises coming from all corners, which only usually happens on Sunday. In fact, the best comparison I can make is with Birkdale, 2017, when the volume increased with every passing minute as Jordan Spieth worked out how to hold on to his own Open Championship dreams.

Undoubtedly, the mood on Thursday evening was different to every other day of the week. I got an early night, ish, and wasn't alone; the excitement and energy had been sucked out of this tournament. All of us knew we'd recover, and that by the following day there would be other stories to write, but many of us had come to accept that we needed to get this day written off as soon as possible.

Friday

Friday is a long day in any Open Championship, but it comes with a caveat. Thursday is long, of course, but unless there's a low round coming from one of the final few groups, typically a mix of late qualifiers, journeymen and the odd amateur, a journalist can file nice and early, yet they know they'll be back the next morning, before the crack of dawn. On Friday, the cut means we have to hang around a little longer but, with the main action on Saturday not beginning until after lunchtime, this is the one opportunity you have to put work to one side and enjoy yourself.

This Friday, like everything else at Portrush, was just a little different. First, it was about Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Lee Westwood, and what they could do. Fleetwood bogeyed the first but birdied the last in an excellent round of 67, which kept him in third. Westwood matched him, bogey-free. Rahm made seven, somehow, at the second hole, but rallied well enough in a ho-hum 70. Conditions had been ideal and they'd stay fair all day, four rounds of 65 coming from a group of tee-times spanning eight hours.

Dave and I popped out for a drink at lunchtime, meeting up with Niall off of Oddschecker and his brother. They'd driven up from the South and had, it's fair to say, caught the sun during the morning. Like everyone, it seemed, both were in good spirits - though I suspect there was a little more focus among the Lyons brothers versus some of their beered-up compatriots, with these two spying the three-ball coupon and an in-play bet or two. Dave told a few stories, I doubtless said something utterly stupid, and we parted ways, Dave having his flight home to catch. (Editor's note: this happened on Thursday, which is why I asked for a diary to be written at the time)

Once back in the media centre, it was time to cover Rory's bid to make the cut. What an intoxicating five hours it was, McIlroy at his swaggering best as he fired one of those 65s, which turned out to be a shot too many. Again, I've written about it since, and I stand by the idea that what happened at Portrush will prove a pivotal moment in his career.

It's proven hard to sum up just how special those moments were on Friday evening. There aren't many times you'll see the media pour out to watch someone play the 36th hole, unless it's an exiting former winner like Tom Lehman, yet it was absolutely packed in the section of the grandstand designated for us. People were climbing all over each other to watch McIlroy's approach shot drift left, roll down the bank, and leave him needing to end this sensational day with the most stunning of birdies were he to be around tomorrow.

Of course, McIlroy didn't manage it, but that wasn't the end of the drama. He then walked off the course, gathered his thoughts, and poured out his emotions on television. We'd never seen this before, and while I was watching from my desk, others who weren't blogging dashed out to the Mixed Zone to see Northern Ireland's most famous golfing son unmasked. It felt significant, and I'm convinced time will prove it to be nothing less. In fact, the way he's played since, perhaps it already has.

That hour after McIlroy finished was intense for everyone. If ever you find yourself in a media centre without much to do, wait for that wall-of-typing sound and make merry at the canteen. Heads down everywhere, journalists firing copy to all corners of the globe, all of them picking out the word or phrase or moment to wrap the rest around. I doubt I felt this at the time, but looking back it gives me the same feeling I sometimes experience when I watch a band: here, under this roof, are a group of strangers who are tied together by something, be it their love for an artist or, in this case, their choice of profession.

Once we'd all finished, later than hoped owing to a few twists in the tale of McIlroy, coupled with Shane Lowry's ascent, it was off into town. So late was the hour, and so loud the noise from down at the Harbour Bar, that me, Cooper, and a chap called Steve, from the AP, went for the first open door we could find. It was, it turns out, an inspired choice, for under way was a karaoke which somehow made for the perfect way to end a day which had made its mark on all of us.

Sitting at the back, with a pint and a couple of spare seats, was Ewan Murray, the Guardian's golf correspondent. I must confess to being a big fan of his writing, and, naturally, I'm also deeply envious of his job. We'd never met, and I suspect he hasn't the foggiest who I am, but he knew Steve and Cooper so we sat down at the table and took turns to confess how emotional we felt - and it was only half-time.

Then, as the karaoke volume increased, I came to regret choosing the seat next to Ewan. As Cooper and Steve edged closer to each other in an attempt to draw more out of their conversation, I felt under pressure. As anyone who has played golf with me will know, I am not very good under pressure - at least, not this kind. I felt compelled to say something, anything, to the Scotsman next to me. At last, I managed possibly the most feeble line since my early teenage years: 'so, do you work from the office, or from home?'

Genuinely. What a mess. But it got worse.

A song or two later, the Irish lads to our left, dominating the playlist, started to whip up the crowd and, before you knew it, everyone was getting to their feet. Strangers from all parts of the world stood and sang together, climbing with the key change of Enrique Inglesias' Hero, and there I was as one of the only two men still sitting down.

Ewan got up.

I got up.

He looked across.

'I'm just going for a piss, pal.'

Saturday

On Friday night, after Ewan had called it quits, sent to sleep by my awful questions, we kept on singing. Midnight came and went, and we sang about heroes. When you've had a drink, you forget that the song itself is awful and that sport is just sport, and that's OK. In fact, it's better than OK.

Come Saturday morning, Cooper and I needed our own hero. Our cab driver had been on the go until the wee small hours, and he wasn't going to be able to get us to the course. Our chauffeur might have been over the limit had she attempted to do us another favour, which we were definitely not owed. And, to compound our woes, there were 30 or 40 punters at the bus stop. They told us they'd been there 45 minutes and a bus had gone past without stopping, because it was full.

While I consulted the internet in the hope we could walk it in about an hour, Cooper set about thumbing for a lift. We walked, his arm out, me being awfully English and fretting, unnecessarily, about whether this was the done thing. Cars came and went, none looking like they'd even consider stopping for the bloke in the shacket and his mate, and as we turned the corner at the top of Portstewart's promenade, the hill in front of us was a perfect metaphor.

Then, as even Cooper considered giving his arm a rest, a car pulled up. Down rolled the window. I figured they needed directions, but they didn't, because they owned a holiday home just up the way there.

They were Wilby and Sadie, an elderly couple who, like everyone it seemed, were not put out by the Open coming to the town in which they holiday. They'd opted not to rent out their place for a tidy sum, and instead were intent on soaking up this once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere. They hadn't tickets to the golf, but they were off to Portrush.

Would we like a lift?

The car was like a sauna. I'm not sure how, but Wilby had managed to set the temperature dial so that it heated the back of the car intensely, the front less so, and steamed up the side windows but not the windscreen. The result was that he could see and breathe; Cooper and I could hardly manage either. And yet, through the breathlessness and the sweat, in 10 or 12 minutes we got to know Wilby and Sadie, the sort of couple who, if there's any justice in this world, will slip into the next one together, not for a long time yet, having lived life as one.

Wilby drove us slowly over the hill, along the way, and into Portrush, where we got to a queue of traffic unlike anything he'd seen before. How do I know that? Because he drove right around it, believing all these cars to be parked, stationary, unmanned; mere obstacles which his little 1.2 could nip around in no time.

'Wilby, what're you doing? You're on the wrong side of the road! Do the boys a favour and we kill them!'

Sadie. Good old Sadie. She might have saved our lives, as Cooper and I mutually wondered whether we ought to tell the kind man driving us to the golf course that we might be better abiding by standard road laws and procedures. He quickly rectified his mistake, flashing a smile into the mirror which only we saw, because the rear window, by now, was steamed up too.

I reckon the locals will have seen the number plate and realised. Wilby's in town, folks. Good old Wilby. Good people.

On the golf course, Lowry took control of the Open with one of the finest rounds you'll see. While JB Holmes tested the patience of Brooks Koepka, Lowry shot 63, on a day when only one other player did better than 66. It was majestic: a golfer back playing the sport the way he'd learned to play it and, over the course of the final four holes, wrapping the fingers of one hand around the trunk of the Claret Jug.

Having put up Lowry, and second-placed Fleetwood, I was able to stave off tiredness. When we'd told Nick about the karaoke bar on Friday night, he was devastated - it turns out, Metcalfe is big on the karaoke. Heck, he even calls Lost In Translation one of his favourite films, and between him, Cooper, and another member of the media I had embarrassingly mistaken for Roddy Forsyth, there were all sorts of karaoke tales going around.

Nick, then, was keen to go back to the same bar. Risky, I thought. When magic happens, attempts to recreate it tend to fail. The air is not the same. Happily, that just wasn't true of this particular magic in this particular bar. Nothing had changed, not even the technicolour dreamshirt of the compere, and the same air hung in the room. This was, in the nicest possible way, a place stuck in time; a portal through which passers by could create their own memories.

This time, free from the pressures of talking to Ewan, I was a different kind of nervous. I genuinely worried for Nick. I didn't know if these were his people; didn't know whether all this karaoke talk was the sort of harmless fun that turns harmful when a microphone is turned on.

I need not have worried.

Nick sang Daydream Believer, a bona fide karaoke classic, to an enraptured crowd. He charmed them to a man, woman and child, telling punters that he'd come all the way from Woking for this; that they'd been fantastic Open hosts; that he would not forget this night. At one point, he turned to a man sat close to the stage and said, 'that's the spirit, colonel, that's the spirit!'

And it really was the spirit. This was the right place and the right time. Never mind the talented local who sang something by Snow Patrol note-perfect; karaoke is about connections, and there was only one star of this show. By the time he returned to the microphone for a second go, this time sending us home to the sound of New York, New York, this Metro journalist had the crowd clapping along to the metronomy of his voice. No longer was Lowry the day's standout virtuoso.

All good things come to an end, of course, and now it was time to go home. As we walked along the seafront, weighing up when to dial our taxi hotline, we were asked a question similar to one which had been asked before.

'Are yous Cooper?'

I don't know how he does it.

Sunday

It was an early start to the final round, and I awoke nervous. At least I wouldn't have to wait as long to find out whether things really would be as easy as they looked like they might be, with Lowry and Fleetwood off together shortly before two o'clock. It gave us enough time to get to the course, but also offered the promise of a relatively early night, before the journey home began.

Lowry started the day with a four-shot lead and, despite a wobble early on, eventually cruised to a six-shot victory. There could have been no better way to end the week. Somehow, even an Irishman rather than a Northern Irishman had started to make sense, as the thousands-strong support took Lowry as one of their own. McIlroy's early exit, while denying us all the biggest storyline, meant that Friday was so much more than any other Friday at the Open. And Sunday, with Lowry so far clear, soon turned into a boozy, hair-of-the-dog happy hour as we welcomed home a popular champion.

Matt and I shared a handshake at a job well done, both of us having put Lowry forward as the best bet that week. Phil came over to offer his congratulations, and we huddled into the interview room to hear Lowry talk us through his fabulous win, before beginning his tour of the Claret Jug, over which he now had full control.

I called it a night after the final words had been written. I have to admit, I was very pleased with myself as I hopped into that same taxi and made my way back to the house, ready for an early night as rain battered the coastline. I was exhausted, ready for home. And I hadn't got the keys. They were, like everything else that week, with Cooper.

Still, it's not a problem when you've got a courier to go with a taxi driver and a chauffer. Two calls later, the keys were on their way to me. The lady next door came out to ask if I was OK - she'd put her Regatta jacket on to do so - and I insisted that I was fine in the rain. Truth be told, I had no energy left to meet another person, even if every person I met that week was delightful.

The keys arrived and I got into the house. For the first time since Monday, I slept for something like seven, maybe even eight hours. When I woke up, it was time to begin the long journey home, on one condition: that I'd come back here one day, for a hitchhike, a round of golf. Maybe even a song or two, colonel.

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Richard Mann is on nap duty on Sunday and he likes the look of a promising Irish raider who makes the trip to Ayr.

Un De Sceaux jumps the last behind Defi Du Seuil5

Sceaux proud of star chaser

Connections of Un De Sceaux were full of pride following his defeat to Defi Du Seuil at Ascot on Saturday.

Racing Tips

Check out the latest daily racing preview

Sunday's racing preview

Keith Hamer makes Canford Bay his best Sunday bet and has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

Sporting Life's NAP of the day

Daily Nap: Luck of the Irish

Richard Mann is on nap duty on Sunday and he likes the look of a promising Irish raider who makes the trip to Ayr.

Check out Monday's racing preview

Monday's racing preview

Nick Robson makes Winnetka his best Monday bet and has a tip for every race at every meeting in the UK and Ireland.

Next Race Off

12:40 Ayr
8
(0)
Zambezi Fix
J: R Johnson
6
(0)
Mayo Star
J: B S Hughes
7
(0)
The Ferry Master
J: Ryan Mania

Football Tips

The latest Sporting Life Accumulator

Sporting Life Accumulator

We are looking at four teams from the Sky Bet Championship and Sky Bet League One for our latest Sporting Life Accumulator.

Read Dale Tempest's latest football betting column for analysis, trends and top tips

Dale Tempest: On the draws

Dale Tempest sees a lot of stalemates in the Premier League this weekend, and has a way you can take advantage in his weekly betting column.

The Sporting Life team provide their free tips for Saturday's action across a range of sports

Saturday's Bets of the Day

Our team pick out their best bets for Saturday's sport, including racing at Lingfield and Taunton, Premier League football, and golf in Abu Dhabi.