Final British Open Qualifying with Monty!!

So its funny how things turn out!!

I went to regional open qualifying for only the third time and the first time in nearly 15 years! Moortown was my chosen course having played well round there in the past from amateur days in the Brabazon to more recently winning around there as a pro. I had no idea about how many spots were avalible as the number was really irrelevant as i knew if I prepared and took care of the things I could then we wouldnt be far away!

I played steady all day and was around par for the most part, conditions were very tough and the wind was blowing hard which really does make an already tough golf course extremely tough! I made a lovely two down 17 and a nice stress free par down 18 and went to sign my card to find out that there was only 6 spots and I was on the mark and going in a 6 man play off for the remaining qualifying spot. So the first play off hole was the first, we all picked out numbers, I picked out one so off I went in the first 3 ball. I holed a great 25ft putt for birdie and waited for the next three. I ended up going down the fourth play off hole with another lad only to get beat there, dissappointed obviously but no regrets as to how I played the play off holes at all. I felt very comfortable and calm all day which was nice. As I was the last one out the play off I just presumed that I would be one of the first reserves for final stage and fely pretty comfident about getting in, how wrong was I!! I was somehow 31st reserve! They actually do the reserves on back 9 card countback then back 6 and so on so the two guys that went out on the first play off hole had a better reserve than me! Work that out!! I really find that tamazing that qualifying for a major championship is determined by a card countback, actually no point in having a play off!! It’s funny how things turn out though as I got a call to tell me I was in final qualfying at Glasgow Gailes 2 days before and I was playing with Colin Montgomerie! I dont think I have ever been so excited to go and play golf, regardless of the way I played or the result it was going to be a great few days. So I told my mum the good news to which her response was…… Well youre never gonna beat him are you!!!

I had to drive up to Scotland pretty much straight away so the next hour was spent trying to find somewhere to stay and getting myself a caddy to come with me at such short notice, there really was only one person I wanted to come and thankfully he cancelled all his plans and we drove up Sunday Evening. I cant thank Ben enough, we never stopped laughing the whole 3 days and just enjoyed the whole experience. I really must also thank Just Audi VW once again, they sorted me a lovely new car to travel up in at such short notice as well as continually providing me with cars when I’m home. So just the 5 hour drive and 300 miles and we arrived late sunday evening, a quick bite to eat and bed!

We were on te tee to practice at 9.45 the next morning, as we drove in it really had a nice feel to it, all the open signs you see at the actual event, brand new titliest balls to practice with, portaloo cabins all over( weird but I associate open championships to them)!! The course itself really is as good as you’ll play, tough but extremely fair and you are rewared for hitting good shots and penalised for poor ones, sounds simple but thats how golf courses should be set up, the pins tucked behind bunkers and on top of swailes on the greens and next to some pretty severe run offs. It’s a course where you really have to plot your way around and have a clear game plan, so we went about our business. My game has been a struggle really for the last 6 weeks, I’ve been getting it around the best I can but all areas are hardwork at the moment. We spent hours on the range and putting green after the practice round. I was on the tee the following day at 8.05 for 36 holes with Monty!!

So we arrived at the course an hour before as I normally do, 20 mins stretch then off to hit some balls. I went through my normal warm up routine on the range then wandered to the putting green. I was hitting some putts and then Monty walked on with his caddie Alistair, it was at that point it all felt a little surreal!! We then got the call to go to the tee, I must admit I was starting to feel a little nervous but in control of things. Alistair was already on the tee and introduced himself then Monty came up and did the same thing, You hear things about how he is but I really must say they were both great company all day, the guy certainly has an aura about him and when he talks to his ball you really do expect it to listen!!

I hit a nice driver off the first and a lovely pitch to the green and we were off! As soon as i hit my tee shot on the second down the middle I felt as relaxed as I ever had. I actually played pretty nicely the first round, had lots of chances but just putted terrible. I found myself +2 after 12 which is the worst it could of been but felt if we could get in at level we could have a real go at it in the afternoon round, there certainly was a good to be had. I birdied 13, unfortunately a poor 9 iron into 14 and a few 3 putts down the closing holes and I signed for +4. Monty shot -5 with 10 putts on the back 9 which included a couple of bombs!! The thing what really impressed me was the simplicity of it all, not once did he put himself in any danger anywhere, took the trouble out off the tee, never missed the wrong side of the flag and his short game from 20-50 yards was something else, he just let the ball do all the work for him and despite what you hear he rolled the ball beautifully and holed out great.

A quick 45 minute turn around and we were out again, we had a little picnic in the car which when Monty heard about it on the first tee was very dissappointed he’d not got an invite!! The first 7 holes in the second round I could not hit a green, it was just awful! Its a pretty tough place to be when you feel like that with around 200/250 people watching but we dug deep and managed to find a way of getting it around, I chipped in through the back of the 8th green when really I had no shot at all( it was nice to get the biggest roar of the day)!! I signed for level par in the afternoon. The most pleasing thing for me was how comfortable I felt throughout the whole day and struggling with every part of my game. You often doubt yourself but to me that really confirmed that I belong in that enviroment.

Monty knew he was around the mark stood on the last tee, he turned to Alistair and said ‘ how far is the bunker Al’ ‘308 ‘ Al replied. ‘ Can i reach it’ Monty asked. ‘No chance Monty, hit it as good as you want’ Al replied. Simplicity at its best.

He made it on the mark. It meant a lot to him to play at Troon this year and I really do wish him all the best for that week and everything else in the future. I had a great few days playing with him and also John Henry who made up the three.