HE may have missed the cut and confessed to playing below his best, but Peter Whiteford still did his home town proud at his first ever Open Championship last week.
The golf ace flew the flag for Kirkcaldy, and the whole of Fife, at one of the greatest sporting events on the planet, and even reached the dizzy heights of sixth place on the leaderboard during his first round.
And although he eventually came unstuck at Royal St. George’s, finishing five over par and missing the cut by two strokes, Whiteford’s first taste of a Major championship left him on cloud nine.
“It was fantastic – a great experience and a great week,” he told SportsPress.
“Everything is blown up in proportion from the usual Tour events. There was a massive buzz going around the place.
“The strangest thing was getting clapped at the practice green, but then people have paid to watch your practice rounds.
“I just tried my best to treat it like any other event, and tried to focus on doing well.
“In fact, I focused so much that I didn’t really take any of it in until after I’d missed the cut, but I suppose that’s a good thing.
“It shows I managed to keep my mind on playing when it would have been easy to be mesmerised by it all.”
The wet and windy weather in Sandwich, Kent, added to an already tough challenge, but Whiteford refused to pin blame anywhere except on himself for his early exit.
“I just played terrible,” he confessed. “I had an average first round, although level par was a decent score, but I should have been a couple under.
“I wasn’t far back – in the top 25 – but I just played very badly in the second round.
“There’s no excuses. I was first out in the morning so I was out before the wind picked up, and there was a good chance to post a decent score, but it didn’t happen.”
Rather than dwell on what went wrong during his Open debut, Whiteford hopes to learn from the experience.
“It was the biggest event I’ve ever played in, and it was a bonus for me to be there,” he said.
“If you miss the cut at a Tour event that’s a massive negative, but The Open experience was just one big positive for me.
“I was nervous – but not any more nervous than normal. I wasn’t uncontrollable on the first tee or anything like that.
“I handled the mental side pretty well and that’s the main positive I’m taking from the week. I was pretty calm – I just didn’t perform.
“Last week in Scotland I felt my swing go a wee bit during the last round, and at the weekend it went a wee bit more.
“I’ve got a week off now where I’ll get a couple of lessons with Donald McKay at Wellsgreen, and get things tuned up before headng into the Irish Open next week.”
Whiteford’s stock has risen considerably over the past few months with his Open debut following a hot run of form that has saw the Fifer compete for European Tour titles.
Four top 10s, which included a career-best 99,000 euros prize at the BMW Championship at Wentworth, has propelled him 39th in the Race to Dubai rankings, and earned some well-deserved media spotlight.
“It’s been nice,” he said. “I’m doing a lot more interviews for TV, radio and newspapers.
“When you do your first TV interviews you just try not to make mistakes, but it’s getting a bit more familiar to me now.
“I’m able to be myself a bit more, and let a bit of my character came out.
“At the end of the day, that’s where I want to be. I want to be at the highest level all the time.
“I’m not getting ideas above my station – there’s a long way to go and I’ve got a lot to improve – but if I can make those improvements then hopefully I can get to that level more regularly.
“I feel I’m handling the mental side of things quite well, so I can put all my energy into getting my game sharper.”
Whiteford is also becoming more recognised face among golf fans, and he admits to enjoying the fame.
“I like it when people get to know you,” he said. “At a supermarket down at the Open people I didn’t know were coming up to me and wishing me good luck for my round.
“You expect that type of thing in your own back yard but not away down there!”
Accompanying Peter at Royal St. George’s last week were his proud parents, Bill and Jane, who run the Wellsgreen Golf Range on the Standing Stane Road.
“I’ve been one of the lucky ones because my parents have been behind me the whole way,” Whiteford said.
“It’s an expensive sport to play, particularly when turn pro and go on Tour. You’re out on your own, and without a sponsor – or in my case – parents to back you up it can be hard to keep going.
“I’m sure they are reasonably proud of me and I’m sure they enjoyed their week down at The Open.
“I suppose it was some form of payback for them being able to see their son playing in one of the world’s biggest events.”