HOYLAKE, England — Christo Lamprecht stopped in the 18th fairway at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Thursday and took a mental photograph of his name on the famed yellow leaderboard at the 151st British Open.
Everyone in the field was looking up at the 6-foot-8 South African, who is believed to be the tallest player ever to compete in golf’s oldest championship, but not for the usual reason. Lamprecht, a 22-year-old ranked third in the World Amateur Golf Ranking and playing collegiately at Georgia Tech, carded seven birdies and shot an opening-round 5-under 66 to grab a share of the lead with Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. Lamprecht smiled after the round as he described how the view from the top of the leaderboard suited him just fine.
“It’s nice to see a lot of work behind the scenes pay off,” he said. “It’s something I haven’t dreamt of yet, but it’s pretty cool.”
Open Championship 2023: Leaderboard, tee times, hole-by-hole
Lamprecht is hard to miss, and as he surged to the top of the leaderboard, his height became a topic of conversation in the gallery. Lamprecht is as lean as a 1-iron and as light as a lamp post, which might make for a good nickname (Lamprecht the Lamp Post or simply the Lamp Post has a good ring to it.)
He only sports a size 13 shoe, but he can certainly send it off the tee, noting that his stock driver carries 320-325 yards. Still, he can bust it 340 yards in the air if need be.
“But I don’t want to. Not in this weather. Not in links golf,” he said. “It rolls far enough, so I kind of keep it in front of me.”
Color long-bombing Bryson DeChambeau impressed. He stopped to take a look at Lamprecht’s action.
“He just wished he had my length, I guess,” Lamprecht cracked.
What a shot. What a day for Christo Lamprecht. pic.twitter.com/RdWODgk8Dl
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 20, 2023
Don’t we all. Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open champion and a Georgia Tech alum, has hit balls next to Lamprecht on several occasions at the school’s practice facility in Atlanta and offered this assessment:
“As a 50-year-old golfer seeing a guy like him, he is pretty much like your basic nightmare, watching a guy like him coming up,” Cink said. “He’s got a lot of really good potential in front of him.”
At 6-foot-4, Lamprecht’s father, an accountant by trade, is shortest of the past five generations. His great grandpa measured an even 7 feet. Lamprecht played on South Africa’s junior national team but gave it up to pursue golf early in high school. That’s also about the time he went through a growth spurt.
“Everything golf-wise was everywhere,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I was changing clubs every six months.”
Almost as surprising as his gangly build is his lack of a South African accent.
“Apparently I’m a full-blown American now, which I don’t like,” he said. “Yeah, it’s bad. I don’t know why it’s changed. I can’t change it back. I don’t know what’s happening.”
As a junior golfer in South Africa, Lamprecht participated in Louis Oosthuizen’s golf academy for four years. After Lamprecht became the youngest winner of the South African Amateur in 2017, he said, “I hope Louis is really proud of me.”
Lamprecht earned a berth in the British Open field last month by winning the British Amateur, and got paired with Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, for the first two rounds. He called Oosthuizen, who is nearly a foot shorter than him, “someone I’ve looked up to.”
“It was kind of a nice draw,” he said. “I thought they rigged it by some means, but no, I loved it.”
Last five scores of 66 or better by an amateur in a major (any round):
66, Christo Lamprecht, 2023 Open Champ. (R1)
65, Matti Schmid, 2021 Open Champ. (R2)
66, Paul Dunne, 2015 Open Champ. (R3)
65, Tom Lewis, 2011 Open Champ. (R1)
65, Nick Taylor, 2009 U.S. Open (R2) https://t.co/iUUwuCLJrG
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) July 20, 2023
Yet Lamprecht said he still experienced a case of nerves at the first tee. On Wednesday afternoon, he had a lousy range session. Then he had another poor session before his first round and snap-hooked his drive at the first. That’s when his caddie, his assistant coach at Georgia Tech, Devin Stanton, told him, “Listen, you’re playing The Open as an amateur; no need to stress.”
From there, the birdies started falling, including three in a four-hole stretch on the front nine and a chip-in from about 40 yards at the difficult 14th hole.
“That was a big steal,” he said.
Oosthuizen, who shot, 74, was asked if Lamprecht had ever beaten him before when they played.
“Never by eight strokes,” Oosthuizen said.