Regional Open qualifying: The hope and despair
Regional Open Qualifying. This is where the Open dream begins – and also ends for nearly everyone who tees it up.
Golf’s version of survival of the fittest is a bloodbath. Not quite the last man standing, but near enough.
There are 78 starting the journey at Alwoodley, the grand Leeds club that is hosting the first stage. Only five will get through.
You’d think the odds of getting to Royal Birkdale would shrink if you could vault this hurdle.
But that’s not quite true. Across four final Open qualifying venues next week, a total of 12 spots are up for grabs. It’s here where European Tour stalwarts also enter the fray.
Talk about trying to find a needle in a haystack.
These lottery-like odds, though, aren’t putting anyone off. It’s £150 to enter and there are plenty across the country willing to pay up for a chance to live the dream.
Think of Regional Open Qualifying like the FA Cup. You’re a non-league club in the first round. The chance of the game of a lifetime at Old Trafford is so close you can almost touch it.
Now ask if it’s worth putting yourself through the wringer in pursuit of the almost impossible.
It would seem to be just that for veteran Laurie Turner. Sliding a fairway wood through range ball after range ball on the practice area, the 55-year-old is still searching for something.
Turner qualified for the Senior Open at Birkdale in 2013 and he’s back to try to book a return visit.
But time is not his friend.
“It’s about playing before they throw me out when I’m 60,” he admits. “We love playing. You play with the young lads, who hit it 30 and 40 yards past you.
“That’s a fact of life whether you are an amateur or a pro. If you play well, you get through. It’s only a numbers game, at this stage. It’s keeping your head, I guess.
“I’ve had replacement knees and hips, on and off, over the last 10 years so I’ve never had a year where I can call myself able-bodied. I’m nearly there now.”