An Ode To Mark Calcavecchia - The Barefoot Champion

Bill Elliott recalls the story of "one of the best post Open interviews I've ever heard"

Mark Calcavecchia holds the Claret Jug
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Open Championship isn't just about who wins, who misses the cut. More than any other week it's about the golf family, about meeting old pals, old heroes and saying goodbye to some of them knowing that the high probability is that you'll never meet again.

So it was today with Mark Calcavecchia. The American who won at Troon in 1989 is 62, two years past the R&A's Sixty and Out rule that The Wise Blazers brought into play in recent times. 

Calc was down to play in 2020 at St George's but Covid messed that up. Last year he was unable to play following back surgery but the R&A committee unanimously agreed to his request to pitch up this time for one last yomp around St Andrews.

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I'm not surprised. He is, as we say in the trade, a good lad. Some golfers we merely admire, others – a smaller group – you know you'd love to have a drink with. Believe me, Calc is towards the top of that list.

When he won in '89 we were told he'd be available for the traditional Monday morning interview with us at 9am at his hotel. About twenty of us made that date and twenty minutes later he joined us still wearing the same awful golf shirt teamed this time with jeans. 

He was barefoot and carrying a can of lager.

Someone asked if he'd had a good celebration. He grinned and said it was still going on and he doubted that the others had yet noticed he'd left. He then gave one of the best post Open interviews I've ever heard.

Mark Calcavecchia pictured speaking to the media

(Image credit: Getty Images)

He talked about growing up in a village deep in rural Nebraska. It's a Three Billboards And A Golf Course sort of place. As a kid he spent the summers playing golf barefoot. 

“It's just more comfortable once you get used to it “, he told us between further slurps of beer.

Now he's done and he's done it in style, staying with his wife and kids at the Dunvegan Hotel (and bar) that, if you don't know, is 70 paces from the first tee and occasionally quite a noisy joint.

He won 13 times on the PGA Tour and grossed $20million in prize-money. “

Yeah, made 20million, spent 23million, “ he grinned.

So long Calc, you're a one-off pal and those us who know will miss you.

Bill Elliott

Bill has been part of the Golf Monthly woodwork for many years. A very respected Golf Journalist he has attended over 40 Open Championships. Bill  was the Observer's golf correspondent. He spent 26 years as a sports writer for Express Newspapers and is a former Magazine Sportswriter of the Year. After 40 years on 'Fleet Street' starting with the Daily Express and finishing on The Observer and Guardian in 2010. Now semi-retired but still Editor at Large of Golf Monthly Magazine and regular broadcaster for BBC and Sky. Author of several golf-related books and a former chairman of the Association of Golf Writers. Experienced after dinner speaker.