The Open 2015: It will be a big day for the little guys – from journeyman to conservatory fitter

Qualifiers and amateurs get ready for their moment in the limelight

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The Independent Online

It is the golfing equivalent of making children wait until after the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day before allowing them to open their presents. Are there parents who insist on such rigid discipline these days?

For some of the qualifiers for the 144th Open Championship, patience will be a virtue for Thursday’s opening round.

Mind you, for the likes of Mark Young and Robert Dinwiddie, just getting here has been a test of their patience and perseverance. Dinwiddie first tried to qualify when he was aged 15. Now, at the age of 32, he is making his debut on the grandest stage of all.

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A Walker Cup player for Great Britain and Ireland against the United States in 2005, the Scot turned professional the following year. He has managed three victories on the Challenge Tour but none yet on the main European Tour.

A ruptured disc in his back last year meant 10 months out of the game and he has played on a medical exemption on the European Tour this season, missing his first nine cuts.

But an improved run of form recently included a third-place finish in Austria. His timing could not have been better.

He got through final qualifying two weeks ago and, as part of the last group to go out at 4.13pm, alongside Rikard Karlberg and Taichi Teshima, is certainly being made to wait his turn.

Young is 33 and only turned professional last November, backed by three members from his first golf club. He still does the odd day as a conservatory fitter in Clitheroe, a job he did for 10 years to fund his amateur career. The leading qualifier at Glasgow Gailes, he now has an opportunity to secure a different future.

His quest to make the cut, and a sizeable cheque, begins at 3.40pm, helped by previous experience at the St Andrews Links Trophy, a prestigious amateur tournament. Ben Taylor has played in the same tournament and is enjoying not just a dream week, but a dream summer.

The 23-year-old from Leatherhead has just finished a highly successful college career in America. Last month, he helped Louisiana State University win the NCAA Championship, the highest honour in college golf, for the first time in 60 years.

Taylor secured the winning point in the semi-finals and again in the final – an eagle at the penultimate hole and an eight-footer for par at the last  respectively – to demonstrate how successfully to hold one’s nerve.


“It was the perfect way to end a perfect college career,” Taylor said. He is likely to turn professional in the autumn but is first hoping to earn selection for the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham in September. Qualifying to play this week at the Home of Golf is another special moment. “It was my dream to play in an Open as an amateur and this was probably my last chance,” he said.

Taylor qualified at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal, along with 19-year-old Alister Balcombe, who had never even been to St Andrews before this week. Like Taylor, Balcombe had to come through two qualifying stages.

The weekend before the first of those, he was in the clubhouse at his home club of Clevedon, leafing through a golf magazine, when he saw a picture of the 18th hole at the Old Course. “Wow! How great would it be to be a part of that?” he asked.

Now he is a part of it. He plays at 4.02pm, alongside two Australians, Scott Strange and Marcus Fraser, while Taylor is off 11 minutes earlier with Brett Rumford, another Aussie, and Tom Gillis, who qualified on Sunday despite losing a play-off to Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic.

In all, nine amateurs play this year, including Ashley Chesters, a two-time European Amateur champion, and Romain Langasque, who won the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie last month.

Weather warning: St Andrews braced for 2010 repeat

Hold on to your hats and your umbrellas; it’s going to be wet and windy at St Andrews.

Conditions on Friday could herald the return of the oscillating balls, just as it did five years ago, when the players were forced to retreat temporarily from the course.

The weather forecast says: “Winds will be quite complicated, becoming quite gusty, with speeds of 30-35mph and a low risk of 40mph gusts later.”

Rory McIlroy might not be too disappointed to be missing out after all. In 2010, his flawless opening 63 was followed by a catastrophic 80 in a hooley.

On Thursday, fortune would appear to favour the afternoon starters – take a bow Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler – while those out first are fed into the teeth of the gale on Friday afternoon, which could blow Jordan Spieth’s grand slam hopes into the North Sea.