Factory worker shoots 78 at British Open

HOYLAKE, England — On a typical Thursday at 10:30 a.m., John Singleton would be making paints and varnishes in a resin factory. Maybe driving around in a forklift truck.

Not this Thursday morning.

On this one-off occasion, Singleton was 10 minutes down the road at the British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, whipping up the crowd on the first tee before taking the biggest — and most nerve-wracking — shot of his life.

“I just wanted to enjoy it,” the 30-year-old qualifier said, with a huge grin. “I may never get the chance again.”

His boss closed the factory and bought his co-workers tickets to watch Singleton on his big day. Singleton’s friends and relatives were there, too, cheering him on every hole and exchanging remarks with him as he walked the fairways during his opening round.

Singleton wound up shooting a 6-over 78, having been at even par after 11 holes. He probably won’t be making the weekend at Hoylake but that doesn’t matter.

“I shot 6 over, it feels like I shot 6 under,” he said. “I just played in the Open Championship.

“I’m not some big-time Charlie who is going to win — obviously I’d love to win — I was there to enjoy myself, soak it all up.”

Singleton, a happy-go-lucky Liverpudlian, took his spot in the 156-man field after winning a sudden-death playoff in final qualifying. A slew of knee injuries kept him out for three years — the main reason he hasn’t made a run at a spot on the professional circuit.

So this was his chance in the spotlight — and he was determined not to waste it.

“I was close to tears,” he said of his experience on the first tee. “The Open is at home. To have everyone there was something special.”

Friends from his local pub followed him the whole way round. They were in regular conversation but sometimes they went too far.

“They were telling me to throw them some sun cream,” Singleton said. “I said, ‘I’m playing at the Open!’ They said, ‘Throw me some sun cream, I’m burning.’ So I threw them some. They kept it as well.”

Despite his nerves — he said he had “unbelievably shaky hands” — Singleton made a clean connection on the first tee and his drive split the fairway. After making eight straight pars, he was leading Tiger Woods.

Singleton bogeyed the ninth, birdied the 10th, but dropped six shots in his final seven holes. As he walked the 17th and 18th fairways, he passed his cousin, who was working at Royal Liverpool picking up garbage.

After several media duties, Singleton headed straight to the putting green and was going to enjoy a few drinks with friends in the evening. As for beyond the British Open, he doesn’t want to speculate.

“Normal life is normal life,” he said. “You’ve still got to go and earn money. Whether that’s playing golf or going back to the factory, who knows?”

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