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Holmes takes the British Open lead in return visit to Royal Portrush

Posted: 12:14 AM, Jul 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-19 00:14:35-04
J.B. Holmes

PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland (AP) — The strangest weather J.B. Holmes ever experienced was at Royal Portrush.

Just not on Thursday in the British Open when he took a -5 par, one shot lead.

Holmes, who grew up in a Kentucky town so small that he made the high school golf team when he was in third grade, dropped a mild surprise after he shot 5-under 66 for a one-shot lead that his first experience in links golf was at Royal Portrush.

“The first hole we had short sleeves on,” he said. “The clouds came up, and the next hole it was raining so hard we couldn’t see. People were losing umbrellas that were blowing away. Three holes later, we were taking all our rain gear off and we were hot again.”

Holmes says University of Kentucky supporters arranged for a non-competition golf trip once every four years, and this one took place in about 2005. They started at Royal Portrush, went to Royal County Down and moved their way about Ireland.

But he loved the style of play. The real adjustment was by the caddies who saw the burly kid smash driver.

“At the time, most of the caddies we had weren’t used to somebody hitting 315 or 320, so I got some bad lines,” Holmes said. “I think when I was playing here, I hit five or six shots exactly where they told me, and I lost the ball.”

He only remembered the opening holes when he returned this week — Nos. 7 and 8 are new for this Open — especially the 374-yard fifth hole.

“The caddie told me to hit 3-iron over the stone,” Holmes said. “I said, ‘Why don’t we hit it at the green?’ He says, ‘Nobody hits it at the green.’ I hit 3-iron through the fairway and said I’m going to hit driver. And I actually hit it up on the green.

“First taste of it was a lot of fun,” he said. “It was unique.”