Kenwick Park golfer Ashton Turner earns Open Championship debut after birdie barrage

Ashton Turner (right) with his coach and Kenwick Park club professional Paul Spence EMN-180907-102842002
Ashton Turner (right) with his coach and Kenwick Park club professional Paul Spence EMN-180907-102842002

Ashton Turner is set to go head-to-head with golf’s superstars next week after qualifying for the Open Championship at Carnoustie.

The Alford golfer, who first took up the game at Kenwick Park GC aged six, booked his place after an electrifying back nine helped him through final qualifying at Hollinwell.

Turner flanked by fellow qualifiers Oliver Wilson (left) and Rhys Enoch EMN-180907-102832002

Turner flanked by fellow qualifiers Oliver Wilson (left) and Rhys Enoch EMN-180907-102832002

With just three qualifying spots up for grabs at the Nottinghamshire course, Turner topped a strong 72-man field with a six-under par total after two rounds.

The 22-year-old finished three shots clear of his nearest rival Oliver Wilson as just five golfers broke par.

The Open, which begins on Thursday, July 19, is the oldest of golf’s four Majors and attracts all of the world’s top names including Tiger Woods, Rory Mcllroy and Dustin Johnson.

The Alford golfer is heading up to Scotland on Sunday ahead of practice rounds on the notoriously tough links course and to acclimatise to the manic environment of a global sporting carnival.

“I’ve got to treat it like a normal event, but I’m so excited for it,” said Turner (22).

“It was one of my main goals to play at a Major so I can tick that one off.

“I’m not going there just to take part or even just to make the cut, I will try to finish as high as I can. It could be my big breakthrough.”

After a slow start to his second full season as a professional, Turner felt the sharpness in his game had been returning as he made his way to final qualifying last Tuesday with coach Paul Spence, dad Simon and caddy Lyle Phillips.

He was firmly in contention in the top 10 after a level-par 72 in the opening round, but there were few signs of the fireworks to come.

“The first 18 holes were a little frustrating. I played really nicely, but couldn’t hole any putts,” he added.

“I was two-over through 16, but finished birdie-birdie which gave me a bit of momentum going into the afternoon.

“The front nine were a bit the same, but I walked onto the ninth tee and saw that no-one was ripping it up so told myself ‘you have 10 holes left and you’re not out of it’.

“And then it took off; it’s just a blur.”

He picked up shots either side of the turn before a bogey at 12 dropped him back to one-under and left him on the cusp of the qualifying places.

But a great up-and-down from a bunker to save par at 13 proved the spark as he picked up five shots in the next four holes.

“It just went crazy,” he said. “I holed a 20-footer at 14 for birdie, then hit the pin at 15 and it went stiff to within four feet for another birdie.

“I went over the back at 16 and buried it in the grass. I wasn’t even thinking about holing the chip, but when that went in (for eagle) everyone went mad, including me.

“I played 17 sensibly and made a simple birdie, and then got down in par at the last.”

Turner’s only previous first-hand experience of the Open is two trips as a spectator.

But having been an awe-struck 12-year-old, he now finds himself in the same draw as his boyhood idols.

“Birkdale (2008) sticks in my mind - it was my first one with my mum and dad,” he added.

“Seeing the likes of Tiger and Sergio (Garcia) as a kid you are in awe.

“If I could choose anyone to play a round with, it would have to be Tiger, and then Rory or Justin Rose would be amazing.

“But to have any chance of that happening I need to make it to the weekend.

“You’ve got to suck it up and enjoy the occasion, but not let it get the better of you.”