Open Championship bronze medal winner welcomed back at RND

Royal North Devon golfer Jimmy Mullen was given a hero’s welcome at the club after winning the Bronze Medal at the Open Championship.

And to celebrate the teenager’s remarkable achievement, the club put on a ‘welcome home’ buffet on Monday evening – which saw a massive turnout.

“We’re really proud as a club,” said RND Secretary Mark Evans.

“What he showed this week, with his attitude and the way he played, I think he can go a long way. Nothing seemed to phase him up there, hitting the golf ball or interviews.

“It’s certainly done us a few favours by getting our club mentioned so many times. Peter Alliss mentioned our 150th anniversary coming up next year a few times.

“We’re holding this big buffet because he also said Jimmy needed feeding up, so we’ve taken that advice too!”

The East-the-Water teenager was pipped by Sheffield’s Matthew Fitzpatrick to the Silver Medal for the top amateur at the third golf major of the year, but still brought home a Bronze Medal, which he proudly showcased on Monday, for making the cut.

The medal has been donated by Jimmy to the club and will now be kept in the clubhouse to inspire the next generation of youth players at the RND.

“It’s along time since a member brought national honours onto this golf club, and you can’t live in the past, you’ve got to look to the future,” said club President Doug Bushby. “We’ve got a strong juniors section which is doing really well, clearly Jimmy being the best of the bunch.

“It spurs them all on, and gives them all the encouragement and the incentives that they need.

“Here at Royal North Devon they’ve got access to all of the facilities they could ever need anywhere, and I don’t think there’s very many golf clubs who give the juniors the freedom that we’ve given them over the years.”

Mullen qualified for the Open with a win in the final qualifying championship in North Berwick recently, seeing off the likes of Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie to make it to Muirfield.

The 19 year-old finished in a tie for 73rd on +15 after an impressive performance at the par 71 course, which has hosted Britain’s only major on 15 occasions, carding rounds of 71, 78, 75 and a final round 75. At one point on Friday, Mullen was inside the top 20.

Despite missing out on the prestigious Silver Medal, in making the cut the Royal North Devon golfer still managed what many of the game’s top players could not. Eight major winners, including Rory McIlroy, and former world number one Luke Donald all failed to make it to the weekend in Scotland.

“I was a bit disappointed not to win the silver medal but to come back here and see how many people are supporting me is really overwhelming,” said Mullen.

“It was a great week, a great experience to meet the players and be around there for tournament days and see where I need to improve.

“I could get used to it, but I’ve got a long way to go before I can do that week in week out yet.

“I can’t thank RND enough for what they’ve done for me, I’m really grateful for the support over the years. Playing here gave me a real advantage.”

Mullen also takes home some great memories from his first major championship, including an incredible chip-in from a greenside bunker on the 15th hole during his third round, which won ESPN’s shot of the day.

“Me and my caddie were having a bit of an argument because I thought it had gone in dead weight but he said it went in at 100 miles an hour and he had a point!

“Paul Azinger and David Duval told me it had won shot of the day so it was nice of them to shake my hand and say ‘well done, you’ve won ESPN shot of the day.’

“I got to play with Josh Teater, who was full of praise for me, and played with KJ Choi who gave me some tips and he was very nice to me. I played with Martin Kaymer and Jason Dufner who were nice guys as well, so it was great to meet them and for them to help me out and show me the ropes.”

Bideford was swept away with ‘Mullen-mania’ throughout the week, prompting a plethora of congratulatory messages to Jimmy, including one from Bideford Town Councillor Roger Vanstone.

“We are all very proud of your achievement in the British open,” he said. “You were a great ambassador and put Bideford on the map for all the right reasons.

“Good luck in the future and don’t forget your home town.”