'Surreal' day for Royal Portrush pro Gary McNeill at The Open

Gary McNeill
Gary McNeill
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It has been a whirlwind last 24 hours for Royal Portrush Head Professional Gary McNeill.

From when it was finally confirmed that he would be taking part in the final two rounds of The Open, to being interviewed by the world's media next to reigning champion Francesco Molinari after his round McNeill admitted it was all a bit 'surreal'.

"It's pretty surreal," said McNeill who gets to do it all again on Sunday.

"I didn't realise it was (Molinari) there, but I can hear the deep voice now.

"Yeah, it's just an unbelievable experience to be out there playing on the course with these guys at the same time.

"I looked back a couple of times because you're very conscious about the pace of play.

"The reason they bring the marker in is to keep Paul (Waring) going at the sort of appropriate speed.

"And I looked back a couple of times and Francesco was well behind us.

"It's good we weren't holding him up at any point."

So what was it like walking up the 18th towards the green?

"Amazing," said McNeill. "I've sat up in grandstands and watched players do that.

"Over the years I've been to a lot of Opens. But to actually experience it, it was unbelievable, it really was. It was quite a moment."

And he revealed he did manage to get some sleep last night.

"I slept okay last night, actually, I was up early and ready to go," said McNeill.

"I hit a few balls on the range this morning, I hit them quite well.

"I kept good pace and hit the ball well off the tee and hit some decent shots. The putter was a bit jiggy early on, but other than that it was okay.

"I felt okay on the first tee. As soon as I took the club back it felt foreign. It was a bit low left off the heel.

"After that I drove the ball really well. I didn't miss many fairways after that.

"It was just great fun. So many people. So many of the members are out there, friends and people that we know.

"So it was great. The reception was unbelievable. The players are getting out there, they must be having a ball.

"There's just a great feeling out there. So many young people on the golf course, as well.

"It's great to see so many kids out there watching the golf and enjoying the golf and potentially being inspired by the game and to take it up or even have a go of it themselves.

"I've been here as club pro for almost 20 years now and right from the outset, the idea of the Open coming back here when I started certainly wasn't in the cards, and to see it all come together and be part of it as well and be part of the Championship Committee here as well, it's been amazing seeing it all come together.

"And the changes to the golf course, as well. We had to make those changes to accommodate the tented village.

"And the holes constructed and new tees and greens. It's been incredible.

"But playing the golf course there, it's a tough golf course. It's a cracker.

"It was a perfect Open day, sunshine and a bit of breeze. Lovely. Spectators are having a fantastic time, too."