A RECORD number of players will take the first tentative step towards the 141st Open Championship in the regional qualifying event at Ferndown on Monday.

The 126 entrants include PGA club professionals, leading amateurs and six members from the host club.

Among the Ferndown players will be Dorset county champion Sonny Wilkinson and the county’s strokeplay winner Harry Mitchell.

The number of qualifiers for the next stage will be determined by a percentage of entries taken from the 14 local qualifying events.

Last year, 16 players progressed from the Ferndown qualifier, including Parkstone professional Martyn Thompson who has played in two Open Championships.

Thompson made the cut at Carnoustie in 1999 and made his major debut at St Andrews in 1995, the same year he caddied for Lee James in the US Masters at Augusta.

It is the last year Ferndown will host the Open regional qualifier before it moves to Remedy Oak, near Horton, next year.

Qualifying for the Open is a long and arduous task with 288 players teeing up at four local qualifying courses (Tuesday, July 3) for just 12 places available for the main event at Royal Lytham & St Annes on July 19-22.