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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 July, 2003, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Sandwich open for business
By Matthew Slater
BBC Sport at the Open

It's a good thing the prize money at the Open has risen exponentially over the last few years.

A few hours in the tented village at Royal St George's has left me needing a loan, and unless I missed the International Monetary Fund tent, it looks like it will have to be one of the players that obliges.

I knew the golf would be good, but nobody mentioned the spectacular shopping experience that is a modern Open Championship.

My first port of call was the "village shop" and pharmacy.

Sue told me that the Sandwich crowd tend to take the Daily Telegraph, Mail and Sun, while Brian the chemist said sunglasses, sun tan lotion and "ladies things" (handbags, shoes??) were his big seller.

For serious shoppers of a golfing slant this place is paradise
I pushed on to the Nikon tent to hire some binoculars, and then cut across to the Peugeot people to have a go on their World Rally Championship simulator and discuss my next car purchase.

After entering their prize draw for a mountain bike - naturally, I will hand it over to the BBC props department if I win - I partook of a "taste of Kent" from the kind folk at the county council stand.

Following an unsuccessful attempt to sign up for golf insurance with Saga - I wanted the free golf balls - I then also failed to join a trade union at the Professional Golf Association tent.

I needed a lift after those disappointments, so I popped into the stylish Schweppes bar for a reviving beverage. They have now sold at least 1,181 drinks in the last two and half days, and I can confirm that the lemon mixer does indeed go nicely with vodka.

With my aperitif sunk I decided to hit the Bollinger tent. I opted for the 46 bottle of Special Cuvee - don't worry, I got a receipt - and I can also recommend the delightful Emma Calder for service with a smile.

From there I felt well prepared to go completely nuts in the aisles in the official merchandise and exhibition pavilion.

For serious shoppers of a golfing slant this place is paradise.

Souvenir junkies will be tempted by the Open polo shirt at 45, while those with less pocket money might go for the repair fork and ball marker at 5.

Gary Player
Golf legend Gary Player interrupted my practice session
Football hooligans can deck themselves out completely in the distinctive Burberry's check - hat, jacket and trousers cost a shade under 300, a snip for the height in Shed End fashion.

The classier buyer will be more interested in the official jewellery from Hamilton and Inches - ear rings for 4,300 - or the Baxter limited edition prints of Royal St George's that come in at 270.

But the real fun starts in the exhibitors' area.

The Srixon simulator let me smash the windows of a hotel lining the 18th at St Andrews - sorry - while the Nike driving game actually wanted me to fire golf balls at a house. I missed.

I was warming up for a rip with a Calloway, but then this bloke called Gary Player appeared and started to tell after-dinner stories about his wife dressing his three wood up in a negligee. I took my frustration out on the Wilson simulator.

By this stage I was starting to sweat so I cooled down with Sandwich's top selling ice cream - a Mr Whippy - and decided to book a golf holiday in Andalucia.

This meant I had to visit the MBNA stand to get a new credit card.

After a quick pit stop for a roast beef sandwich at the Famous Grouse marquee, where they will get through 120 joints of beef this week, and a pint at the Open Arms, I was ready to return to the press tent a happier but poorer man.

Now if they could only get rid of a few of the holes, I reckon they could cram a few more shops and bars. There would be more time to shop too.

I'll ask the R&A.





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