CHRIS Paisley’s coach is not feeling sorry for him after he missed out on qualifying for The Open Championship. In fact, he thinks it’s more likely to help than hinder his immediate prospects of progress.
Andrew Nicholson, who runs the David Leadbetter academy at Wynyard, has worked with six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo in his time, so his opinion is worth listening to.
The conventional view is that our brave UK lads are hard done by. After the mass lottery of 18-hole Regional Qualifying, 288 players battle for 12 Open places in Final Local Qualifying over 36 holes on one day at four courses. Three get through per course.
It used to be 35 places, but the R&A stand firmly behind their modern vision of being fair to the world of golf, rather than favouring British players.
The 2012 Final Local Qualifying was held on Tuesday, all on par-72 courses in Lancashire near the Open venue of Royal Lytham.
Of the seven contenders from the North East and Cumbria, only the three Challenge Tour pros – all former Walker Cup players – enjoyed even a brief scent of success.
Penrith’s Gary Lockerbie, who leads the tour rankings after four top five places this season, came closest when he tied sixth at Southport and Ainsdale with 68 72.
Like Barnard Castle’s Robert Dinwiddie, Lockerbie was in a play-off place after the first round and Paisley, from Mickley, was only two shots away at the halfway stage.
Paisley had to settle for 70 73 at St Annes and Dinwiddie 70 74 at Hillside.
Craig Goodfellow (78 71), Steve Wrigley (73 77) and Andrew Scrimshaw (83 77) were never at the races. Neither was England’s No 2 amateur, Garrick Porteous, who had travelled to Lancashire from Sussex after finishing seventh in the Brabazon.
He withdrew once a first round 82 at Hillside left him with no chance of qualifying. He travelled home to Northumberland and boarded a morning flight to Ireland yesterday for a Great Britain and Ireland training session.
The odds against any player making it are horrendous and Nicholson admitted: “My view is not fashionable, because there is a widely held school of thought which says qualifying for the Open is like a non-league football team beating a Premier League side in the FA Cup and there should be more places. But no non-league team will ever win the FA Cup in the same way there is no chance of a qualifier ever winning the Open.
“OK, Ben Hogan did it in 1953. But it was the only year he entered the Open so he had to qualify. He was not a ‘non-league’ player, he was an all-time great who won nine majors. He won the Masters and the US Open the same year he won our Open!
“My job as Chris Paisley’s coach is to help him prepare to become a European Tour player and if Chris had qualified for the Open, it could have distracted him from the main job in hand.
“There would have been all the back-slapping etc etc, but nothing is better for making the right progress than playing on the Challenge Tour.”
Nicholson insists any wannabe European Tour pro needs as few distractions as possible from the blood, sweat and tears of progressing through to the sharp end of the business.
He said: “There is a lot to think about and concentrate on. For instance, your travelling, your practice, when you are likely to peak. The Open and any of the other majors can knock you out of your routine.
“It sounds harsh to say so, but I am not upset about Chris not making it. I am a realist and as a coach I have to deal with the truth of the situation rather than get caught up in the romantic side of sport.
“A bit of icing on the cake is nothing like as important as your bread and butter.
“The main tours in Europe and America are a massive global multi national operation and the strength in depth of the players is such that the world’s top pros say, justifiably in my view, hey, these majors are important to our ranking positions.
“Why should we give up spots in a major for some guy who might have made it because he got lucky in two or three rounds and then goes out and shoots 78 82 in a major?
“I don’t think that is elitist, that is logical. I am not saying Chris would have scores like that in the Open, but all the fuss over playing in a major is not necessarily productive at this stage of his career.
“There are nothing like two solid years of getting used to life as a Challenge Tour pro to prepare you for being a European Tour player, to hopefully move on to the bigger stage through carefully though out practice and a properly planned schedule of tournaments.”