Standing beneath the liver bird-topped buildings of Liverpool, surrounded by “Scoucies” wearing Doc Martens next to statues of the Beatles, I found it hard to believe that the British Open was just a short train ride away. While I was only in Liverpool for a short time for the last few days of the Open, the fact that I was actually there and not watching it on TV gave me an “extra” five hours to explore the area each day before heading over to the Royal Birkdale.
Liverpool is an 800-year-old city that once saw 40 percent of the world’s trade. The city is home to the 125-year-old Liverpool FC, the famous “Liverpool Kiss” and Gerry and the Pacemakers. While these may be noteworthy, they pale in comparison to the city’s ultimate claim to historical fame: as the birthplace of, unarguably, the most influential rock-and-roll band of all time, the Beatles.
Fab Four-covered buses spirit tourists away to Strawberry Field, Penny Lane and the childhood homes of the legendary group. I listened to live music at the Cavern Club on Mathew Street, where the group logged 292 performances in the early 1960s. I sat in John Lennon’s old drinking booth at the Grapes. I slept in a hotel room professionally graffitied with the lyrics from Beatles’ tunes and large strawberries — but only because the large yellow-submarine houseboat parked in front of Albert Dock had no vacancy.
Perhaps the Beatles monument that had the most impact on me was the statue “Eleanor Rigby,” created by musician and sculptor Tommy Steele in 1982. Purposely located on a side street away from the hustle and bustle, the homeless bronze figurine is perched upon a stone bench, handling her meager belongings in a tribute to “All the lonely people.”
The entrance area at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club for the Open was reminiscent of my arrival at various Midwestern state fairs. The grounds, except for the metal detectors and thousands of people, were moorishly inviting. In sharp contrast to tournaments in the U.S., I found the crowds to be proudly pedestrian and felt a warm sense of community ownership surrounding the event. Large numbers of children at this venue underscored the accessibility of the game to all, promising a place in the future for it. The sporting sense of rowdiness you might historically find at an exhibition match quickly adopted me as a visitor, and I shuffled along with the throngs of English fans.
Saturday was spent attempting to watch Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar play every hole, a task that proved impossible for me by the 14th. A spectator science involving crudely drawn maps, high-ground viewing spots, foreseeable ball-landing areas and latrine locations was lost on me.
On Sunday, I employed the foot-aching strategy of securing the best standing area behind the 18th green and staying there all day to watch each of the golfers finish his round. When British golfers disappeared from contention, the crowd seemed to adopt Matt Kuchar. I stopped laughing as much after the 15th conversation I overheard between two Englishman that started with “Why are they booing him?” (“Kuuuuuuuuuch!”) Just for fun, since bookmaking is legal in England, I had 20 pounds on Kuchar to win at 7-to-1 odds. After the 12th hole of the final round, I already had my money spent on ball markers and Beatles T-shirts. Spieth’s birdie-eagle-birdiebirdie run on holes 13 to 17 was unbelievable. It made losing money on Kuchar a little less painful. The sportsmanship he displayed in his concession speech was impressive. Besides the Beatles, Liverpool is also home to one of the manufacturing headquarters for Jaguar Land Rover. Not only can you watch massive Transformer-looking robots putting together these automobiles, you can also confirm how little you know about the buttons and levers of luxury cars by piloting one through a hazard-ridden obstacle course.
Watching the plethora of different types of Land Rovers meander their way through the assembly process was incredible. I could barely connect the shiny new autos I saw emerging from the plant with the rolls of steel I saw at the beginning of the tour. If my tour guide Mal would have let me, I could have skipped at least two meals and sat on the upper catwalks just watching the robots doing their thing. For the price of a spare tire, you can come over here and observe the birth of your Land Rover, then have a technician demonstrate in live conditions exactly what each option is and how it functions.
Locking up the differentials on somebody else’s brand-new Land Rover, while crawling down a 45-degree rocky angle, all hands free, scratched my car-geek itch. So did plopping through streams and dancing through boulder gardens. All of which cemented my opinion of Land Rovers as extremely well-built and versatile machines, ready for the Beltway or the bush.
In a perfect world, John Lennon would still be alive, Matt Kuchar would have won the Open and the Land Rover I extreme-tested would have been my own. The imperfect one we live in that allows me to listen to Beatles music, watch championship golf and extreme-test other people’s Land Rovers is what I will have to live with. That is, until I go back to Liverpool.