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Birkdale - Nick Faldo

Regional Open qualifying: The hope and despair

There were only five spots up for grabs in Regional Open Qualifying at Alwoodley. So why do so many players put themselves through the ordeal against a 78-strong field? Steve Carroll went along to find out.
 

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.

Birkdale

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.”

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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