Nicholas Poppleton teed off last on Thursday. After his round, he was the last to speak to the media. It’s a good thing he did.
Poppleton is one of the 2021 Open Championship’s Open Qualifiers, into the field at Royal St. George’s by virtue of a 65-69 showing at West Lancashire Golf Club two weeks ago. He’s also a breath of fresh air, a 27-year-old part-time grocery delivery driver built of wit and perspective. And he’s the very best quote at the Open.
He was asked about his tee time, 4:16 p.m., late by any standard.
“Yeah, we were putting the bins out. We were right at the back, last man,” he said.
He was asked about his opening tee shot, a nervy moment for any golfer. He didn’t mince words.
“I cacked in my pants, but I’ve hit it a couple times over the week, so, yeah,” he said. “My caddie did a good job trying to chill me out. But I don’t think — I think that’s what you play for, isn’t it? Everyone dreams of that moment.
“Everyone has cacked their pants and topped it off the first. If you do, you just think, I had a chance to play in The Open, so it’s just awesome.”
Then he made birdie at No. 1, getting his day off to a perfect-if-unassuming beginning.
“Yeah, just shoveled and shoveled it down there,” he said. “Just lucky, really, more than anything.”
Don’t mistake Poppleton’s quick wit for dismissiveness. He’s positively chuffed by his berth in the Open field. The 27-year-old plays on European mini-tours, except when he’s driving delivery for Iceland Foods. His partner Amber is a radiographer at a children’s hospital who spent much of the last year working long hours in a makeshift emergency hospital. Poppleton has spent much of the last year in a support role, he told the AP. There’s no doubt his good humor helps.
Poppleton’s sister was among the group out watching him compete on Thursday. He complimented her presence the way only a British brother could.
“Oh yeah, my sister, there was some cheers from her. Yeah she’s got a mouth on her so yeah, she was shouting and screaming for me.”
As for the rest of the crowds?
“When you’re last off they — I think they got fed up and gone off by then,” he admitted. “I flagged it into 16 and there was just a couple greens guys clapping. ‘Oh yeah, class!’
“So, yeah, it was great on the 1st and it was amazing, but I think everyone had a long day at The Open and decided it wasn’t worth sticking around to see Poppleton shooting five over.”
Five over is exactly what Poppleton shot. He began with a birdie, then made bogey on 2, 3 and 5. He birdied No. 6 but made bogey at 8, 11 and 12. The birdies came but the bogeys came faster. Not how he dreamt it. But this week’s a dream no matter what.
Plus he gets time off of work.
“Just awesome,” he said, describing the opening round. We’ll hope his second one is even better.