Ashton Turner learns lessons for second crack at The Open

Ashton Turner with coach Paul Spence - the pair both made their Open Championship debut in 2018 EMN-191107-104037002
Ashton Turner with coach Paul Spence - the pair both made their Open Championship debut in 2018 EMN-191107-104037002

Professional golfer Ashton Turner will call on the benefit of experience when he tees off for his second crack at golf’s oldest championship tomorrow.

It may only be his second stab at The Open, but the 23-year-old believes he has learnt plenty from last summer’s Major debut.

Turner (right) was one of just three to qualify at Hollinwell EMN-191107-104026002

Turner (right) was one of just three to qualify at Hollinwell EMN-191107-104026002

He missed the cut by seven shots at Carnoustie and is clear in his mind of what went wrong and how to remedy it.

Turner’s latest Open odyssey begins on Thursday when he joins Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Yosuke Asaji, of Japan, as the last group out at 4.16pm.

On Friday, his threeball tees off its second round at 11.15am, right before home favourite Darren Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, gets under way.

“It was an awesome experience being there last year and my main aim was to get back there,” he said. “To do it so soon is a dream come true.

Ashton is interviewed after his play-off win, but will be happy for less media interest at Royal Portrush EMN-191107-104047002

Ashton is interviewed after his play-off win, but will be happy for less media interest at Royal Portrush EMN-191107-104047002

“Last year my game wasn’t where I wanted it to be and I went into it with the wrong game plan.

“I was playing the course on past memories rather than what was in front of me, but now I have a great team around to help me.”

He added “Last year I played in an event the week before The Open and in hindsight I probably should have taken the week off to get my game in order.

“I withdrew from last week’s EuroPro event so I could knuckle down and get some really good practice in to make sure I’m in the best possible shape.”

The Alford star also headed to Royal Portrush on Sunday expecting a quieter time off the course.

While making a Major championship debut is enough to contemplate for a second-year professional, Turner also had to contend with an unexpectedly large share of the spotlight.

Shortly before the tournament, the national media caught on to his unorthodox introduction to golf, when he was encouraged into the sport to correct balance issues caused by childhood cerebral palsy.

It led to widespread media interest and Turner was inundated with interview requests, including a slot on Sky Sports.

“I was expecting playing in the Open to be a big thing, but then it got bigger when the story came out,” he explained.

“It was quite a big distraction. I was doing three interviews a day and having to get to different places so it was difficult to get a structured practice together.

“I’m not using it as an excuse, because I wasn’t good enough on the week, but this time it will be quieter so I can focus on the business side of things and shooting a low number.”

While the vast majority among the galleries will be concentrating on the likes of Rory Mcllroy, Tiger Woods, et al, Turner can expect a few shouts of encouragement.

Along with his long-time coach Paul Spence, friends and family, a group from his home club, Kenwick Park, will also be making the trip over to Northern Ireland.

Ideally the Lincolnshire golfer will hope to entertain them for the full four days this year, but he is mindful not to set any targets or get ahead of himself.

“I’m just going in with an open mind and to take each round as it comes,” he said.

“To make the weekend would be a big improvement on last year, but you never know what’s going to happen.

“I played the course about four years ago, but I know a few of the holes have changed.

“Like any links golf you have to hit a low ball, expect a lot of run on the ball and use the contours.

“It’s a big change from the EuroPro courses, but when I’m on the range I practice all of the shots anyway.”

Standing on the first tee of a Major can bring out the wobbles in even the very best, but Turner has already shown he can handle pressure.

He came through a bunker-full of it just to qualify.

Having won his heat at last year’s round of final qualifying, Turner this time required a play-off against good friend Dave Coupland to grab the third and final spot.

Turner recovered brilliantly from a bunker to halve the first hole before Woodhall Spa pro Coupland did likewise at the second.

Both found trouble in a greenside bunker at the next, and a bogey four was enough to book an immediate return to join the world’s elite.

“The pressure was great for both of us,” he added.

“He had been there three times before and I’d been to my first Open last year so we both knew what we were fighting for.

“But you train for these situations and you just have to trust your game, trust in your process and get on with it.

“Dave and I know each other well and are in the same management group.

“It was a tough situation to be in because we are good pals and one of us wasn’t going to make it.

“But for those few holes we were just competitors – you just crack on with the job in hand.”