ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND | Long before he captured low-amateur honors in the Open Championship at St. Andrews – nearly a full week earlier – 21-year-old Italian Filippo Celli had his pinch-me moment at the Old Course.
He stood on the 13th green Monday afternoon, playing a practice round accompanied by his caddie, when he looked across the double green and saw Rory McIlroy – his favorite golfer – on the same massive putting surface.
Celli, who won the European Amateur in June, had never met McIlroy. The closest the two had come was when Celli was in the gallery at the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon and he had been close enough to watch McIlroy hit a tee shot.
On a quiet Monday afternoon, the two finally met.
“I was so happy when Rory, like he turned to face me and he asked, ‘Hey, guys, you mind if I join you for the back nine?’ ” Celli said.
Celli looked at his caddie and asked whether McIlroy was serious.
“I was so lucky and happy because it’s a dream come true because I grew up watching the video of Rory and … all the stuff he won. So, it’s amazing, unbelievable.”
For Celli, he won the silver medal with a 5-under-par 283 score and a T47 finish, the best among the four amateurs who made the 36-hole cut. Aaron Jarvis, the Latin America Amateur champion from the Cayman Islands, finished at 1-over (T76), England’s Barclay Brown shot 2-over (T79), and England’s Sam Bairstow posted 4-over (T81).
“I’m feeling very happy and proud,” said Celli, who is from Rome and is a rising junior at Texas Christian University. “(Sunday) my golf game was really good, like the last three days. I made a lot of stupid bogeys, but that’s OK because I am very happy because my dream was to play here and I won the silver medal.
“I can’t ask for a better thing to win the silver medal at the 150th Open in St. Andrews.”
Ron Green Jr.