What’s it like as a qualifier?

What’s it like to be one of the unknown qualifiers playing in the Open? Mark Garrod interviewed one of them.

England’s Steve Surry is not a superstar of golf.
He would like to be, maybe one day he will be, and this week he finally has the chance to rub shoulders with those who are.
Making it into The Open is the highlight of the 27-year-old’s career so far and staying in the Turnberry Hotel overlooking the championship course would doubtless have added to the experience.
The Royal and Ancient Club, organisers of the event, offered him a room after he asked about accommodation once he had come through the final qualifying tournament last week.
Minimum prize money for playing The Open is £2,100. The hotel room costs £2,639 – £377 per night with a minimum seven-night stay condition of booking.
Good sense prevailed.
“I didn’t take them up on the offer,” said the Wiltshire professional. “Instead we’ve found a house to rent 15 miles from the course that’s costing £1,000 – for seven of us!”
The group comprises his mother, his coach, his caddie, his caddie’s father and two members of Cumberwell Park – the club in Bradford-on-Avon who sponsor Surry and have come up with an imaginative way to help him try to achieve his goals.
The target is to raise £125,000 to finance a programme which it is hoped will end in him gaining a European Tour card.
A website has been set up and pixel squares can be bought for a minimum of £50, which give backers the chance to submit advertising images which are then published on the homepage.
And anybody purchasing over £500 may be given share options that will pay out from a percentage of Surry’s winnings from a first year on the European Tour.
Just getting into The Open had an instant impact.
“From the usual 20-odd hits it went up to 500 and obviously the better I can do the more interest I hope I can generate,” he said.
“We’ve not really pushed it as much as we perhaps should so far, but hopefully it will now start to snowball.”
Surry is a former England boys international who had a plus-two handicap at 17 and who played at Turnberry in a junior tournament a decade ago.
“I think I won it and I think I had a 74, but not off the championship tees.”
In 2001 he went to see friend David Dixon play in The Open at Royal Lytham. Dixon did not just make the cut, but finished a superb 30th and took the silver medal as leading amateur only two shots behind Tiger Woods only three months after he had completed his clean sweep of the majors.
Dixon turned professional straight afterwards and last year, after going to the qualifying school seven straight years, had his first Tour win.
Surry followed Dixon into the paid ranks, but has yet to follow him onto the Tour and has been trying to make a living on smaller circuits like the Jamega Tour and EuroPro Tour.
On the Jamega he is currently seventh on this season’s Order of Merit, but with just £3,318. On the EuroPro he has played four events in 2009 and is top of the Order of Merit with nearly £13,000 from four tournaments. He won the first and has had a fourth place and two eighths in the other three.
Surry has also made two appearances on the Challenge Tour and helped by a seventh place in the first of them has won £4,500.
That performance also gave him some world ranking points and the importance of that was it made him exempt into the second stage of Open qualifying. He ranks just inside the world’s top 1,000, by the way.
At Western Gailes last week 96 players were competing for only four spots at Turnberry and with a course-record 66 in the second round he finished runner-up to Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed.
“I struggled a bit the first day and was hitting it everywhere, but did a bit of practice and then had nine birdies,” he said.
“There’s no way of knowing how people are doing out on the course and I had to wait about three hours to know I was in, but it was obviously fantastic when that happened.
“It feels a little bit surreal. The Open is the biggest event in the sport and it’s every golfer’s dream to play there.
“My aim is to make the cut and get into the weekend. I just want to be steady and continue to play as I have all season.
“I’ll be going to Tour School again at the end of this year and will try to qualify that way – unless I win The Open, of course!”