Golf / The 121st Open: Jones' joy at making the grade: Guy Hodgson witnesses a Welsh club professional fashioning a fairy-tale from the frustration of trying times

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The Independent Online
KEVIN JONES'S flights of fantasy have a consistent theme - they involve the 39-year-old Welshman winning an Open Championship, the margin unimportant, the venue irrelevant. But until yesterday he was not only a long distance short of realising his ambition, he had not even made it to the tournament.

Twenty years of trying had reaped an equal time of frustration. Fifteen times the club professional from Caldy in Cheshire had attempted to qualify and on each occasion he had failed. The nearest he had got was being fourth reserve for the 1979 Open at Royal Lytham and St Anne's, an achievement not likely to figure in the great moments of his life.

So it did not need much imagination to fathom his emotions when his name appeared on the early leader board yesterday. Jones -2. It would have brought tears to his eyes had he not been avoiding looking up for fear of suffering vertigo. Had he not been grinning so vigorously from ear to ear.

'It's wonderful,' he mumbled after his score of 69. 'It's a dream come true. When it sinks in I'll be able to put a value on how I feel at the moment. The proudest moment of my golf career was playing for the PGA against America, the flag-raising ceremony will stick with me for the rest of my life. This I just don't know.'

Jones's lack of mental equilibrium was due not only to his unfamiliar position in an Open field, but on the fact he was not in an unfamiliar position on a sun lounger. Fed up with failing to make the tournament he had decided to take a holiday this week, 'Abersoch or somewhere else in north Wales,' he said. 'A club pro rarely gets a chance to take time off with the family in the summer so I'd decided not to bother trying to qualify this time. The members wouldn't expect me to be around during the Open anyway.'

His wife, Marie, either does not like north Wales or has greater faith in her husband's ability. While Jones was thinking of getting away from it all she secretly entered Jones, paying the pounds 65 fee and keeping quiet until the draw for the regional qualifying was made. He duly found an oasis of form at Beau Desert and a two-round total of 136 in final qualifying at Luffness New to confound himself more than anyone by reaching the competition proper.

Mrs Jones was there yesterday but she did not witness many Jones misses and her pounds 65 will have been translated into a minimum of pounds 3,200 if her husband makes the cut today. 'I'd been fine on the practice green,' he said, 'but when I walked to the first tee my legs buckled with nerves.' Outwardly he did not show it and he had five pars to his name until his first bogey at the 469-yard sixth when he had a bad lie for his approach shot found a greenside bunker.

From then he hardly ever strayed from the straight and narrow, recouping his dropped shot with a 50-yard putt from way off the green at the eighth and moving better than par with further birdies at the 14th and 15th. 'I couldn't watch,' Marie Jones said. 'I just kept hoping to hear the ball drop into the cup.'

She could have heard the sound sooner on each of the last three holes where her husband grazed the hole with birdie attempts. Even so his journey in was made to the accompaniment of loud cheers from the 50 or so Caldy members who had made the trip north once their pro had qualified.

'It was nice to do well in front of the members,' Jones concluded. 'I've taught several of them.' Having left the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus, Hale Irwin and Curtis Strange in his wake yesterday, a few others had received a lesson yesterday too.