SANDWICH, England – For Nick Poppleton, truck driver, casual man, EuroPro Tour player and Bryson and Phil’s favorite training lap partner, the 149th is the 27-year-old Englishman whose 2021 tournament begins before this week, including the IFX Championship, the Jessie May World Snooker Golf Championship, the Cumberwell Park Championship, the Eagle Orchid Scottish Masters and the GLAL Orchid Worcestershire Masters, bowed out of the Royal St Georges after adding a second round 73 to his first 75.
No matter. The man who made himself popular with everyone during his few days in sunny Kent was still smiling after playing his last five holes in one under par.
“It was great,” he said. “It was great to see some people up close that you normally only see on TV. I’m really happy and can’t wait to get another taste of it. It was a shame that I had my C game. My week wasn’t great in terms of golf. But it was a typical first experience. I was just trying to find my feet. But it was great to come here and see how good these guys are. And how far am I from them. “
Technically, Poppleton knew where his shortcomings were. Perhaps it is predictable that he will have to work harder in driving and in the short game, the goals of the sack. Which won’t be a problem. Part of Poppleton’s charm this week was the hot stories he and his wife, Amber, a radiologist at their local hospital, went through during the pandemic. The focus there was of course on Amber and the stressful environment in which she works.
“I can’t believe your workload,” said Poppleton. “And there is a shortage of x-ray technicians. So she had to have a lot of catching up to do. It was so hard on her. Often she would sit there and say that she just didn’t want to go to work the next day. She just didn’t want to be in these awful surroundings. She and everyone she works with could never fully understand what they were trying to do. It was really a nightmare. I feel so much for everyone who works in this industry. What she does makes my life look easy. “
Not that easy, though. Golf at professional level is tough and demanding at the same time. With his former boss, swing trainer Pete Cowen – “I used to draw pints on his driving range,” said Poppleton – he was subjected to a short game exercise. Chipping and pitching to a variety of pins, the idea is to add up the total distance the shots from each finish.
“My four balls landed a total of eight feet from four holes,” said Poppleton. “I was pretty happy with that, until Pete told me that Rory had done the same exercise on seven flags and was four feet long. That’s incredible, a real eye-opener, especially when you just hear that Rory doesn’t have the best shooting game in the world. I would take it. “
Other memories will live long with this engaging character. One makes him laugh, the other arouses warm feelings of camaraderie.
“I have one of the most ‘shameful’ memories of the week,” he revealed. “I played 18th in a training round. Laura Davies gave an interview on the right. I hit my second shot with the wind coming from the right. So my caddy told me to hit the Japanese flag that flies behind the green. Because of me.
“But I made a mistake here. The flag I thought was the Japanese flag was actually the South Korean flag. The real Japanese flag was left of it. My caddy asked me what I was doing. I told him and he started laughing. “This is Korea,” he said. Of course, I have to work as much on my flags as I do on my Golf. “
The highlight of the week – surprise, surprise – was the training round, accompanied by Messrs. DeChambeau and Mickelson. Both left lasting and positive impressions on the Poppleton psyche.
“You were lovely,” he insisted. “They say, ‘never meet your heroes’ but they were so nice to me. They are the nicest people you would ever want to meet, these two guys. I can’t believe the media is calling Bryson some kind of “bad boy”. He’s a lovely guy. And he screams ‘in front’. In the round we played, he hit his drive over the right bunker on the 18th. That’s 330 yards, which is mental. But he almost burst my eardrum and screamed ‘in front’. It was so loud. Either he got the hang of it, or he has always done it and nobody noticed. “
And with that, Poppleton was gone. Hopefully again. Next week, at the invitation of a sponsor, he will be playing for the Cazoo Open at the Celtic Manor. It is a European Tour event, two divisions higher than the EuroPro Tour, which he currently resides. It’s definitely going uphill.
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