You only have to read Nicholas Poppleton’s tweet today to realise why so many enter Regional and Final Qualifying for the Open Championship even though most don’t have a chance, and the odds are heavily stacked against them.
Poppleton qualified at West Lancs along with Louis de Jager, and Daniel Croft; Deyen Lawson, Sam Forgan, and Connor Wordsall made it through at Prince’s (pictured); Ben Hutchinson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Sam Bairstow qualified at Annes Old Links; while Daniel Hillier, Jonathan Thomson and Richard Mansell were the fortunate three at Hollinwell.
Well done the delighted dozen considering there were 282 dreamers hoping to book spots in the Open Championship. Some "name" players missed out, too.
European Tour winners Lee Slattery, Jarmo Sandelin, Robert Rock, and John Parry failed to qualify. So did promising young Belgian Thomas Detry. A slew of elite amateurs missed out. Indeed, Bairstow was the only unpaid player of the 12 qualifiers.
Fernandez-Castano is the only one of the 12 to play in an Open. The seven-time European Tour winner has made six Open Championship appearances.
As for the rest, you only had to read their quotes to see how much it means to them. Thomson, nicknamed “Jigger” and at six foot, nine inches will probably be the tallest man inside the ropes at Royal St George’s, echoed Poppleton's tweet when he said:
“I’m absolutely delighted. I’m over the moon. I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet but I’m sure it will tonight.
“I’ve never played the golf course so it will be a new one for me, a new challenge. It’s all great experience and I’m absolutely buzzing.
“I’ve been to The Open a few times with my dad as a spectator and always watch it on TV. It’s been a childhood dream to step on the first tee of a major so it’s one hell of a day to remember.”
Richard Mansell has similar thoughts. The Englishman has played just 13 European Tour events, never mind playing in major championships. He said:
“Today is right up there with the best days I’ve had on the golf course. My phone is blowing up now. It’s the first major I’ve qualified for. Getting my tour card this year was massive, but a Major is something else. That’s where we dream of playing. I’m going to celebrate this one. I’m not often proud of myself but I am today.
“You think back to all the hours you put in and the sacrifices you make growing up, it’s just what you’ve always dreamed of. I used to watch The Open with my family growing up, when I was a junior golfer at my club – you always have a putt to win The Open on the green. Now I have a chance to do that. It’s hard to get your head around.”
As I wrote yesterday, you have to love the dreamers who turn up every year to try to make childhood fantasies come true. As the 12 proved yesterday, open golf dreams can come true.
Well done boys. Fingers crossed you play all four rounds at Royal St George’s.
#JustSaying: “The Open is the tournament I would come to if I had to leave a month before and swim over.” Lee Trevino