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Christo Lamprecht and the tall order of co-leading The Open Championship

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Christo Lamprecht and the tall order of co-leading The Open Championship

The 6-foot-8 amateur is tied at the top with England’s Tommy Fleetwood

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    HOYLAKE, England – Christo Lamprecht is big (6 feet, 8 inches tall), has touched 200 mph ball speed, and used to play competitive tennis, which brings to mind a man serving out of the Goodyear Blimp. His grandfather was big, also 6-foot-8. His great grandfather was a 7-footer.

    But those guys didn’t lead The Open Championship.

    Lamprecht, a 22-year-old amateur from South Africa going into his senior year at Georgia Tech, shot a 5-under 66 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on Thursday. That gave him the lead, and later the co-lead with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, on a sun-splashed day devoid of wind.

    “The first tee shot was the only bit of nerves I had all day,” Lamprecht said. “I just kind of walked off the first tee box after hitting my snap hook drive, and my caddie (an assistant coach at Georgia Tech) just told me, ‘Listen, you're playing The Open as an amateur; no need to stress.’

    “We kind of had fun from there,” he added.

    Lamprecht is in The Open Championship field by virtue of his victory in The Amateur Championship at Hillside Golf Club in Southport, just 28 miles north of Liverpool, last month. He barely got out of stroke play and nearly lost his first-round match, but he rolled from there.

    RELATED --Five things to know: Christo Lamprecht | Inside the bag of Christo Lamprecht

    In a way, his play Thursday was merely a continuation of that week. He made par at the first, then racked up seven birdies, including all three par 5s, and two bogeys. Through the morning wave he was No. 1 in average driving distance (325 yards) and Strokes Gained: Off the tee.

    With his unusual build and extra-long levers, Lamprecht can look as if he’s using kids’ clubs. He has an unusual action that includes plenty of knee flex through the ball, but it works.

    The 599-yard, par-5 18th hole was typical of his day. He blasted a 353-yard tee shot past playing partners Oosthuizen and Joost Luiten, prompting amazed laughter amongst the fans, then strode down the fairway, oblivious to their chatter. (Typical comment: “Who’s the big fella?”)

    Then he hit a 251-yard second to 48 feet and two-putted for birdie.

    And lest anyone think he’s one-dimensional, he chipped in for birdie at the par-4 14th and also gained more than a shot and a half against the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

    Amateur Christo Lamprecht chips in for birdie at The Open

    “He’s a giant man, and a lot of club head speed,” said 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink, who himself is 6 feet, 4 inches tall and, playing behind Lamprecht, shot 68 in the opening round.

    Cink, a Georgia Tech graduate who often practices alongside the Yellow Jackets golf team in Atlanta, has never played against Lamprecht, but has watched, mesmerized, on the range.

    “He's got really nice hands and a soft touch around the greens with the little shots,” Cink said. “As a 50-year-old golfer seeing a guy like him, he is pretty much like your basic nightmare.”

    Naturally, the assembled scribes at Royal Liverpool had questions, starting with the size of Lamprecht’s shoes (13). On the subject of his development as a golfer, he said there were awkward, growth-spurt years where “everything golf-wise was everywhere. I didn't know what was going on. I was changing clubs every six months.”

    About those clubs: He adds length and weight, and no one else wants anything to do with them, he said. When asked if he still plays tennis, he shook his head no.

    “But I love playing pickleball,” he said. “We do that a bunch at Tech.”

    Would he forego his senior season in order to turn pro?

    “Kind of at the start of my college career I made a promise to our head coach I was going to stay four years,” he said, “and I think you're only as valuable as your word. Yeah, I’m definitely planning on staying in college for the next year and planning on turning pro after that.”

    That’s a good thing, because assuming he remains an amateur, his victory in The Amateur Championship also qualified him for next year’s Masters Tournament and U.S. Open.

    Finally, and most importantly, who is the tallest player he’s ever come up against?

    “Tommy Morrison,” Lamprecht said. “He plays at Texas, a freshman at Texas – 6'10" – recently. Looked up to him and he's like, ‘Hey, big guy.’ I was like, OK, fair enough.

    “It caught me off-guard a little bit,” he added.

    He’s caught a lot of others off-guard in the first round, but now we know. Fair enough.

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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