Local boy John Singleton lives Open dream up the road

John Singleton, who works in a Birkenhead factory, will be competing with Tiger this week after qualifying for Hoylake. He tells Kevin Garside about a shot at the big time

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The Independent Online

John Singleton won’t mind an early tee-time. It beats clocking on at eight o’clock five days a week. Singleton’s story as the local golfer making good has even reached the ears of America, the Golf Channel giving him 15 minutes of fame at Hoylake last Saturday.

The juxtaposition of Singleton, a manual worker at a resin factory in Birkenhead, and the return of Tiger Woods to major golf was too delicious to ignore. The pair crossed paths at Royal Liverpool, with Woods teeing off for a first practice round ahead of The Open just as Singleton was walking off the 18th.

Did he say hello? “No chance, he didn’t know me from Adam,” said Singleton, 30, who qualified at nearby Hillside using wedges borrowed from a mate.

This is Singleton’s second coming as a professional golfer, his first cut short nine years ago by cruciate ligament injuries from which he thought he might never recover.

The success at Hillside followed the decision to have another crack at the pro game last February. To date his biggest cheque is £280 claimed a couple of months ago. “Came in handy. I took the missus out for a nice meal, which keeps her happy.” As will the minimum purse of £2,500 coming to him this week, should he fail to make the cut.

Singleton is already floating across an unimagined dreamscape. He lives only 15 minutes from the Hoylake course. Three days a week after work he hits balls at the somewhat reduced facilities at nearby Eastham Lodge Golf Club, and plays at weekends. His boss at Advanced Electrical Varnishes gave him two weeks off to prepare and declared Thursday a day’s holiday at the factory for those heading to Hoylake to offer support.

“It means everything to me. You dream of playing The Open growing up, but you don’t actually believe you are going to do it. And then to qualify at Hillside and to be playing at home, this all feels like the Olympics to me. Thursday will be some day. Friends and family all there. It will be one of the greatest days of my life.”

If you are wondering how he is managing to keep it all together, so is he. “I have to try to somehow compete with these guys. As much as I completely and utterly think Tiger is the greatest player ever I have to rein that in a bit and treat it like any other tournament and just try to compete. It’s an important springboard for my career and a great opportunity.

“If I can take the mind-set that I had at Hillside onto the course here I’ll be fine. I’m up against the best players in the world so there are no expectations. I can just go out and enjoy myself. That’s the plan, anyway.”

Singleton has no super-agent working for him, just a family friend out there trying to secure promotional deals. His first gig is already in the bag and places him at the doors of history.

Game Golf is a digital tracking system that offers a detailed breakdown of every shot played, club, yardage  and direction.

Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Jim Furyk also endorse the product, but Singleton is considering taking it one step further and using the device at Hoylake, the first time a training aid of this type has been sanctioned by the R&A at The Open.

After The Open, life has another seismic shift in store. Singleton is due to become a father. His partner Lucy, who persuaded him to have a crack at Open qualification, already has her bags packed for the maternity ward.

Depending on outcomes, Singleton will be back in the day job the Monday after The Open. Unless he wins, of course, in which case it is properly game on.

“I turned pro in February but with the baby coming I thought it was the best thing to do to keep working full-time. It’s full on but really exciting. I came here last week and played every day. I’m hitting the ball nicely and the game feels really good, right where I need it to be.”

John Singleton will be using GAME GOLF during this week’s Open Championship. GAME GOLF is a game-changing wearable device which tracks and captures real on-course performance data and is available from americangolf.co.uk for £199.99.