LUCKY NUMBER SEVEN?
If luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then golfer Mark Young is ready for a return to The Open in 2017, writes David Fearnhead
Mark Young is no Cinderella man. By his own loose count, 2015 was either his fifth or sixth attempt at qualifying for The Open. That year it was held at St Andrews, the home of golf.
“If someone told you you’d only ever play one you’d pick there wouldn’t you. Without a doubt,” reflects the 35-year-old.
He describes those final-day 36 holes, to win the qualifying at Glasgow Gailes, as the most pressure he’d ever felt on a golf course.
“Because the scoreboard was up I knew I was leading, and I knew four pars gets you in The Open. I may have had a two shot lead, but getting the club on the ball was a different feeling. It’s The Open, everyone wants to play in it. To get those four pars was probably the best four holes of golf I’ve ever played.”
This year The Open returns to Lancashire at Royal Birkdale, and the Clitheroe golfer has received a boost as he hopes to once more walk the fairways with the world’s best.
North West based corporate advisory and investment firm, Seneca Partners Ltd have come on board as his clothing sponsors for 2017. Seneca, who specialise in providing capital and corporate advisory services to businesses with annual turnover of up to £100 million support a number of locally based sporting events and teams each year and Young is delighted to be carrying their colours this year.
“I am targeting a top five finish on the EuroPro Tour this year, which runs through to the end of September, and you can’t do that without help. Having the support of Seneca Partners is much appreciated and helps offset the costs of playing in these events. I would love to thank them with some good finishes!’’
Young says his only regret in golf is that he didn’t turn pro earlier, having only stepped up from the amateur game in November 2014. He’s come a long way for a kid who’d only taken up the game because he was bored when his dad took him to the cricket.
“I was about 12 and I thought straight away cricket is not for me. So they gave me a cut-down five iron and I just belted it around the outfield whilst they played cricket.”
Fast forward twenty-something years and he was standing on the first tee at St Andrews preparing to play at The Open.
“I was relaxed in the lead-up. I’d met my hero Ernie Els on the range. He said to me, ‘Enjoy it, you’re one of us now’.
They were a calming few words. On practice days, even when you’re with the big names like Garcia, Rose and Stenson it just feels like you’re going for a game of golf with your mates. Come Thursday and the start of the tournament, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.”
A late tee-time saw him catch the worst of the Scottish weather. “I watched a bit of it on telly in the morning. Everyone was making birdies on the front nine. I thought here we go, a hurricane is coming my way and I’m going to be battling the elements.
“My mindset was just enjoy it. I didn’t set myself any goals. On the first I was just happy to hit it and see it go forward. Then again, I did have the widest fairway in golf to go at,” he adds with a wry smile.
Despite playing well, the elements had taken their toll and he was one of many late finishers who failed to make the cut. “It’s quite mentally tiring with all the weather delays. It was a bit of a mixed up week really but one that I’ll never forget.”
He’s a long hitter off the tee, 300 yards on a fair day, though don’t expect to find him in the gym looking for extra yardage.
“I think you can overdo it. Look at Tiger he’s riddled with injuries. Obviously McIlroy hits it out of this postcode but he might go the same way as Tiger if he’s not careful.”
There is one lesson he’s learnt from playing with the elite: “You can’t get frustrated by a bad shot. The thing with the top players is they rarely do anything silly. If they make a bogey it’s not the end of the world. They take the punishment and move on.”