DORSET’S Lee Thompson is back on the Open Championship trail – 13 years after his first and only major appearance.
The 40-year-old Dudsbury professional, who finished 67th in the 1999 Open at Carnoustie, was one of the leading qualifiers at Ferndown on Monday.
“It’s only the second time I have bothered trying to qualify since 1999,” said Thompson, who carded a four-under-par 67 to share top spot in this year’s regional qualifier.
“I didn’t really think it was worth my while before, but I’m trying to play a lot more this year and have got back the desire to win, which you need.”
Ferndown was one of 14 regional events, with 12 players progressing from the Dorset course to the local qualifying stage on Tuesday, July 3.
Thompson, who qualified at Downfield in 1999, knows the chance of a second Open appearance at Royal Lytham & St Annes on July 19-22 is going to be much harder this time round.
“There are only three spots from each of the four qualifying courses, compared with eight when I qualified before,” explained Thompson.
“It’s also 36 holes in one day which is going to be tough. When I qualified, it was two rounds over two days, so you had a pretty good idea what you needed to shoot in the second round.”
The 1999 Open Championship was won by Scotsman Paul Lawrie in a play-off after Frenchman Jean van de Velde threw away a three-shot lead by trying to play out of a burn on the final hole.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge and will approach it the same way I did at Ferndown,” said Thompson, who carded rounds of 73 and 65 to make the Carnoustie line-up.
“I will try to win and shoot the best scores of the day, but you’ve got to be patient because you never know when you’re going to put together a bit of a run.
“In 1999, I thought I was out of it midway through my final round, but managed to birdie six or seven of the remaining holes to qualify.”
Thompson, who is second on the PGA West Region order |of merit, combines golf with his taxi work and teaching at Dudsbury.
Among the dozen Ferndown qualifiers joining Thompson in Lancashire next month are fellow Dorset professionals Kevin Garwood (Parkstone) and Luke Joy (Broadstone).
Garwood and Joy both carded rounds of 69 and were involved in a five-man play-off for the four remaining places.
Next year’s regional qualifier moves from Ferndown to Remedy Oak, near Horton.
Ferndown qualifiers: Billy McKenzie (Amateur, Rowlands Castle) 67, Lee Thompson (Dudsbury) 67, Gavin O’Neill (Amateur, Royal Jersey) 67, Ben Loughrey (Amateur, Wrag Barn) 68, Sam Matton (Bowood) 68, Martin LeMesurier (South Winchester) 68, Nick Day (Amateur, Henbury) 68, Robbie Busher (Amateur, Salisbury & South Wilts) 68, Kevin Garwood (Parkstone) 69, Peter Horner (Camberley Heath) 69, Luke Joy (Broadstone) 69, Steve Mitchell (Unattached) 69.