IT was a time to invoke the spirit of the Blitz. The Open had been blown off course, the schedule was in tatters.

It was a time for Peter Alliss, the Queen Mother of Golf (without the salute), to guide the nation safely though a Sunday at the Open that was to all effect a Saturday at the Open.

However, perhaps in deference to his 84 years, the BBC had a bit of a lie-in with television coverage only starting after a late breakfast. It was a significant scheduling decision.

Sky will take over the live television rights to the Open in 2017 and it is impossible to envisage the satellite broadcaster missing the start of the action. Its history shows that it would be on air at least an hour before the first tee time.

On Saturday, BBC scrambled into action when the weather intervened at St Andrews, even shifting a chunk of the action on to BBC4, but Sky has the ability to devote a channel to the Open. It will do so.

This scope is welcomed but there is much to regret in the departure of the BBC from live coverage of the Open. Yes, it can make errors of judgment. The coverage of Sir Nick Faldo included him having his photie taken by family. It was, perhaps, his last Open but there were guys with sticks trying to put balls in holes at the time.

Supporters of Marc Warren must have thought the Scottish golfer had marked the X for no publicity given the paucity of the coverage of his opening round.

But the BBC does so much right. Alliss is an idiosyncratic broadcaster who may be past his best but is still capable of the humorous and the waspish. He could riff on Fluff Cowan’s moustache yesterday but also mention that the R&A was now "flush with telly money”. Andrew Cotter is a fine broadcaster, Hazel Irvine is an excellent broadcaster who holds it all together, Mark James and Ken Brown offer more than considerable playing experience and Maureen Madill is highly competent, if somewhat underused, out on the course.

There is no reason to suspect that Sky’s coverage will be inferior but characters will be missed and a tradition that stretches back to 1955 will be broken, though non-subscription viewers can watch highlights on BBC television.

So why is the switch important even, in Mr Alliss’ much-used word, remarkable? Why does a change of channel, a change of voices matter? Sports rights, after all, are commercial entities and are subject to the realities of the market. The BBC, too, is losing live sport at an accelerated rate.

The message is that if one wants to sit on one’s bahookie and watch live sport then one will have to pay for it in addition to forking out a licence fee.

But this has its consequences for broadcaster, sport and viewer. The broadcaster may find that the lure of the rights is not reflected in the price it paid for it. There is, for example, disappointment at Sky over the viewing figures for the Ashes. It will be instructive to learn how many subscribers BT Sport attracts for its splash on Champions League rights.

Some in cricket, too, are concerned that live Test matches are not freely available. Many fear it will impact negatively on participation. Sports are selling the rights while nursing apprehensions about the results.

The case of the Open is significant for a reason that has almost disappeared from sport and has never been prominent in commercial life: sentiment. The first Open was broadcast on BBC in the year of my birth. Yup, that long. BBC Open coverage qualifies for a bus pass. It has undoubtedly added lustre and profile to the championship. It has also given the Open an increased audience. Many have come to golf through the televising of the championship on BBC. And many have retained an interest in it through the annual deluge of BBC coverage in July.

The BBC ensured a communal sharing of great TV moments. The outrageous shots from Seve Ballesteros, the Duel in the Sun, the Doug Saunders missed putt, the Lee Trevino quips and shots, the Frenchman stripping off to go into the water, the Scot subsequently winning…all readily recalled from BBC pictures.

These were freely shared on television and subsequently liberally discussed. The Open therefore became part of a wider community, many of whom did not know a six-iron from a steam iron. This is now approaching the end.

One cannot run professional sport on sentiment alone but one should never be dismissive of it. The disaffected may view the departure of Alliss and his mates as the end of an earache but it is more than just a switch in channel, it is a change in direction. It will leave viewers behind.

The battle over free, top-class television sport has long been lost. Satellite television has proved it can cover sport with admirable technique and powerful resources. But it is still possible to bemoan ever so gently the departure of Alliss and his shout-outs for Ladies Day at Upper Escutcheon Golf Club or Brown and his designation of “high tariff” shots.

The BBC’s long goodbye continues today. A historic Monday offers more chances for memories to be made for the price of a licence fee.