The Open: Kenwick Park’s Ashton Turner eclipses world stars

Ashton has two Major championship appearances under his belt by the age of 23 EMN-190723-110353002
Ashton has two Major championship appearances under his belt by the age of 23 EMN-190723-110353002

Ashton Turner is looking to use his brilliant Open Championship as a springboard when he returns to the bread and butter of tour life.

The Alford pro golfer finished tied for 57th in only his second major championship, beating a host of stellar names, having twice broken 70 at the tough Royal Portrush links course.

Ashton Turner is now aiming at qualifying for the end-of-season EuroPro Tour Championship EMN-190723-110403002

Ashton Turner is now aiming at qualifying for the end-of-season EuroPro Tour Championship EMN-190723-110403002

Having missed the cut by seven strokes 12 months earlier on his Open debut, the EuroPro Tour professional made it through to the weekend, eclipsing superstars Rory Mcllroy and Tiger Woods.

He would finish on four-over after a brilliant closing round of 68.

“I didn’t play great on Saturday, but to close out with three-under was the perfect way to end a great week,” he said.

“My big target now is to qualify for the Tour Championships so I need a couple of wins, but hopefully I can take the momentum from the Open to push on and grab a few breakthrough wins.”

Ashton contends with a typically brutal links bunker EMN-190723-110622002

Ashton contends with a typically brutal links bunker EMN-190723-110622002

Having attracted plenty of national attention on his debut at Carnoustie, Turner welcomed a quieter week second time around.

“It felt a lot different this time,” he explained. “I was a lot more comfortable with the situation.

“It was much quieter so I could focus on myself and my business completely.

“It sounds silly, but I hardly even noticed the crowds this time.”

Turner finds his putting rhythm before heading out for another round EMN-190723-110342002

Turner finds his putting rhythm before heading out for another round EMN-190723-110342002

Turner, an honorary member at Kenwick Park where he took up the sport, was in luck for his search for calm.

Drawn out in the final three-ball of the 157 starters, most of the spectators were drifting away by his 4.15pm tee time.

An unusual and eerie atmosphere it may have been, but one which played into his hands.

“It was a strange one,” he added. “It felt a little more special to be the last golfer to tee off.

“There is a lot of waiting around and plenty of time for your mind to start to wander, but my team kept me busy all day and I just got my head down.”

The 23-year-old quickly found his rhythm, and when he sank his fourth birdie of the round at the par three 13th, he had moved up into a tie for fourth place on three-under.

A bogey at the last left him tied for sixth with world number four Justin Rose, but remarkably 10 and nine shots better than Mcllroy and Woods respectively.

“It was everything I could have hoped for,” he said. “It was stress-free and I played nicely.

“To see myself tied fourth was a great feeling. They play majors all the time so to be up there competing with them was a massive confidence boost.”

Having got off the course at 9.15pm, Turner was back out the following morning just after 11am with making the cut for the top 72 a real possibility.

“I put myself in a good position, but you just try to think about starting all over again,” he said.

“I didn’t play as well the second day. The conditions weren’t easy and I was fighting my game a little, but I got over the line.

“I’d dropped three strokes by 11 and there was a par five coming up so I wanted a birdie to steady things and make it more comfortable coming in.”

He duly claimed his birdie four and then parred the next five holes, meaning his bogey at the last left him the right side of the cut line at one-over.

“At the time I didn’t feel as good at making the cut as it probably could have done.

“The day before I had played so well and there was a big jump which was disappointing, but then you think you’ve made the cut at your second major!”

Turner was paired with experienced American pro Charley Hoffman, and followed Bubba Watson and home favourite Graeme McDowell, a star pairing with three Major wins between them.

But the Lincolnshire golfer couldn’t get his game going on a dramatic day, carding a six-over third round of 77 to slip to the bottom of the reduced field on seven-over.

“It was great to see how Charley plays, but things didn’t go to plan for me,” he explained.

“My game wasn’t up to the conditions, but I knew I could right a few wrongs the next day.”

Having been last man out on day one, in a quirk of symmetry, he was first out on the final day.

A relaxed Turner carded an eagle two at the par-four fifth hole, and began his turn for home with a run of birdies at 10, 12 and 13.

A monster birdie putt on the 18th brought a big cheer from a packed grandstand, the final thrill of a memorable week.

“It was the final round of a major so I just went out and enjoyed myself,” he said.

“Being first out meant I could play at my own pace and I played some really nice golf.

“I stood over that putt and almost knew I was going to hole it.

“The way the whole week went, it was the perfect way to end it.”