The 2011 Open champion, Darren Clarke, will make his debut in the Senior Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes from July 25-28.
The Northern Irishman turned 50 last year, fewer than two weeks after the 32nd edition of Europe’s only senior major championship and is now relishing a return to links golf on the over-50s circuit.
Clarke’s emotionally-charged success at the 2011 Open Championship captivated the sporting world as he dedicated his victory to his late wife, Heather, after securing the Claret Jug by a margin of three strokes from Phil Mickelson at Royal St George’s Golf Club.
Indeed, it was Clarke’s first top-10 in a major championship since he finished tied third at The Open in 2001 on the links of Royal Lytham and St Annes.
He shared third place with this year’s defending senior open champion, Miguel Angel Jiménez, as well as Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Royal Lytham. It’s a very fair golf course and I went close there in 2001,” said Clarke.
“I remember being one behind on 17 and went with driver when I shouldn’t have. It cost me that time but I have great memories there and I like the course.”
The last three Senior Open champions have all hailed from Europe, with Paul Broadhurst winning at Carnoustie Golf Links in 2016, Langer at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in 2017 and Jiménez at St Andrews last year.
Clarke hopes to see the trophy remain in European hands, adding: “It’s very special for us to have the opportunity to compete on these fantastic golf courses.
“Over the last few years, Miguel, Bernhard and Paul have played some superb golf to win the Senior Open trophy and the number of guys who travel from around the world to play just shows how important the Senior Open is on our calendars.
“These are the guys who I grew up playing golf with and against.
“That hunger to compete doesn’t leave you and I’ve really been enjoying playing as a senior, getting used to it, and I’m excited about my first Senior Open.”
Clarke will be bidding to join an elite group of golfers who have won both the Claret Jug and the Senior Open Trophy; Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson.
“I would love to give myself an opportunity to win the Championship and follow in their footsteps,” added Clarke.
Clarke will be one of a host of major champions, Ryder Cup captains and European Tour winners competing at the world famous Fylde coast links this year.
He will join fellow former Ryder Cup captains Langer, Woosnam, Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie in the field.
Also competing is Jiménez, whom Clarke partnered to a 5/4 victory over Chad Campbell and Davis Love III in the Friday fourballs at the 2004 Ryder Cup.
The Senior Open will be returning to Royal Lytham and St Annes for the first time since 1994.
That was the last of four consecutive Senior Opens at the course, when Bobby Verwey, John Fourie, Bob Charles and Tom Wargo were the winners.
The course has hosted the Open on 11 occasions and also staged the Ricoh Women’s British Open last year.
The new captains at Knott End Golf Club have made a great start to their year in office.
At Saturday’s Incoming Ball, 120 members and guests celebrated with incoming captains Steve Maughan and Elaine Blackburn, and president Alan Brown.
The following day’s drive-in competition was blessed with great weather as the captains drove off in front of members and guests to start the event. Some 24 pairs took part in a closely-fought mixed greensome stableford won by Sylvia Wilson and Andy Wilson with a score of 40 points
Runners-up were Kath and Jim Coleman with 38 (acpo) and third Joanne and Mick Kay, also on 38. Jim Furlong and Kath Wright, and Michael and Janet Gorry scored twos.
Nearest the pin were Alex Gardner for the ladies and Jim Furlong for the men.
Professional Jonnie Salisbury ran a competition to guess the combined distance of the captains’ drives. Driving off in front of a crowd always tests the nerves and the total of 270 yards was not the best. Money raised was split between the captains’ charities: British Heart Foundation and Brian’s House Children’s Hospice. Audrey Connolly won with a guess of 269 yards.
The ladies’ foursomes stableford club competition at Fairhaven GC was won by Sue Godfrey and Lynn Griffiths with 36 points. Runners-up were Carol Hood and Anne Weston (33), who won the Coronation foursomes.
The nine-hold stableford was won by Ann Boddis on 20 points, while first place in the men’s Outhwaite qualifier went to Mark Bridges and James Fleming with 67.5. Second were Paul Drury and Steve Jackson on 72.5
Entries are now welcome for the Gazette Matchplay 2019, once again generously sponsored by Blacktax. Our final four will enjoy a luxurious golfing holiday to Portugal to determine the winner and full entry details can be found on page 38
You can enter and find full competition details here
In Masters week, Alastair Taylor lof Lytham Golf Academy helps you to master the art of putting.
Continuing from last week, we are again looking at how you can reduce your three putts and hopefully increase your single putts to improve your scoring.
Now, you are not going to be putting on greens like Augusta National, but as we discussed last week there are three key areas to be good at with putting: green reading, controlling the speed at which the putt rolls and starting the putt in the correct direction.
Having discussed speed last week, let’s take a look at direction.
In order to determine your direction you must first decide how you think the ball will break.
Once you have done this, pick a point to aim at. If you set the ball off accurately towards this point at the correct speed – and you’ve read the putt correctly – then the ball will go in the hole. Dead easy!
The problem is that most golfers struggle to set the ball off in the direction they are aiming for.
A great drill to improve your direction is to put two tees in the ground about six inches in front of the ball.
Make sure the gap between the tees is slightly wider than the width of the ball.
See how good you are at hitting the ball between them without hitting either tee.
If you cannot achieve this, then you are probably struggling to control the club face at impact.
Keep practising, always noting which tee you hit, until you can get the ball consistently through the gap.
When you have achieved this you are starting to master start direction.
This will help mainly on short putts but will also help to get longer putts closer to the hole.
To contact Alastair at Lytham Golf Academy call 01772 631520.