Thursday morning marks an annual ritual I have participated in for as long as I can remember. Wake up early, really early and watch the opening round of The Open Championship. Turning on the television at 4:30 am EDT on purpose is an experience. In a household that contains two children, a wife, a Labrador Retriever, and a hamster there’s no shortage of stimulation. 

On Thursday morning all of them will be asleep. It will be dark outside, and I’ll be able to hear the television turn on. That blessed click you rarely hear and welcome knowing it’s that yearly moment when the whole world goes silent, and the commentator voices take center stage. I have loved golf most of my life. Can’t answer why at a young age I admired Nick Faldo over Joe Montana; I just did. Nothing meant more to me than experiencing the Open Championship. 

In my teens, I would wake up and watch Round 1 and 2 religiously. The golf courses were so different. The competitors were layered up in July in vivid wardrobe colors that dotted the wispy brown landscape. The commentators spoke another language of sorts and it was all I could hear at five in the morning. Peter Alliss would connect words in such an artful form it inspired me to be articulate. I would imagine in the family room darkness that Old Tom Morris was there watching alongside me. 

To truly love something means you really start to notice everything. Life’s idiosyncrasies surround our friends and loved ones. When you truly pay attention, these characteristics come into focus. That’s what really drew my mind into the deeper traditions of the game in my formative years. As the years continued to pass by, each third Thursday in July I carried on with my ritual. It has become such a tradition amongst my friends, we all wake up and text one another. 

The early years with Nick, followed by Greg and Phil who soon faded away as Tiger came into focus. Like Braveheart, he owned the Scottish battlefield of St. Andrews. Today we watch as a plethora of contenders seemingly all vie for each Major Championship. When they do compete, we watch them play a slightly different game. The Open Championship is contested on the ground. There are few venues where this is truer than this year’s host, Royal St. George’s. 

The 149th Champion Golfer of the Year will be accepting and patient. Resilient, creative and most of all possess a very short memory. Because if Augusta National Golf Club and all of it perfectness epitomizes American golf, Royal St. George’s paints a polar opposite picture. That’s why, once per calendar year we watch and get completely engrossed in this great championship. 

The Open Championship began nearly thirty years prior to the US Open. When the golf world was older than its infancy, this championship was the only game in town. Even if we didn’t count them each year, you could still tell by viewing the other major championships the Claret Jug came first. In watching The Masters, I see the influence of the ground game around their green complexes. Fields of fescue seemed to have inspired the framed fairways of the US Open with rough. The professional identity of the PGA harkens back to a year when competitors played matches head-to-head in formal clothes prior to the 1960’s. 

Those reading this don’t need to wake up early to enjoy all the Open Championship has to offer. Much like Breakfast at Wimbledon, you can catch all the action you need at a normal morning hour. When you do tune in, consider what you’re watching and how it applies to your golf. Pay attention to the short shots around the greens. Notice the players using the land and elements to score rather than just trying to Bryson the course into submission. Appreciate the differences you see and allow yourself to get deeper into the game. You don’t have to be single digit handicap to enjoy playing golf. Find one aspect or two that resonate and run with it. Golf is hard game and if we can learn to appreciate its intricacies then we will enjoy it that much more.

This Thursday morning after a two year wait, the silence in my surroundings will only give way to the terrific terms uttered by Mike Tirico. It will captivate me and reignite my bond to the past, present and future of my career. For one week every year, take a closer look at the game and maybe you will see something like I did so many years ago. That connection we feel is real and it can motivate you to do great things not only in golf, but also in life. Embrace the differences, notice the nuances and above all else, get up and watch the Open Championship! 

Keith Stewart

Keith Stewart is a PGA Professional and storyteller. He has built a unique marketplace perspective through two decades in the golf industry. As a professional, he has worked at many prestigious clubs on the east coast, most notably, Isleworth Country Club from 1998 to 2003, home to Tiger Woods at the time. Currently, Keith uses his talent as the host of the ProShow on ESPN radio across the New York City market. His expertise in the industry blended with a comedic pop-culture filter entertains his listeners. He's a 5-time award winning PGA Professional who brings credibility to any discussion covering the world of sports. Keith resides in Hopewell, NJ with his wife Laurie and their two kids Owen and Abbey. He's a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and an avid golfer.