For millions, the chance to play at The Open is a pipe dream but for 42 lucky club golfers, their fantasy will become a reality.
On the eve of The 148th Open, 34 men and eight women will compete in the third annual staging of The R&A 9 Hole Challenge Final over the first two and last seven holes of the famous Dunluce Links on the morning of Saturday, July 13.
Almost 40,000 golfers entered nine-hole qualifying events held at courses throughout Great Britain and Ireland in 2019, as well as in Australia for the first time for the chance to earn this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
R&A Executive Director – Golf Development and Amateur Championships Duncan Weir said: “We look forward to welcoming all 42 finalists to Royal Portrush on the eve of The Open.
“We have a broad age range competing, from nine-years-old upwards, and an equally broad handicap range.
“Overall, we are delighted with the number of entrants this year, including a significant number from Australia, and we are sure the finalists will enjoy the thrill of competing in front of the grandstands at Royal Portrush ahead of The Open’s exciting return to the venue.”
Golf Australia ran a Play 9 championship across the country, with the final taking place during the Emirates Australian Open, which is part of The Open Qualifying Series, at The Lakes in Sydney in November last year.
Winning pair Jacki Lawson from Tasmania (Ulverstone Golf Club) and Allan Lodge from Northern Territory (Gardens Park Golf Links) will now join the likes of home club duo Robert Kennedy and Siobhan McHugh in competing at Royal Portrush.
The father-and-son pairing from Rothes in Scotland, Barry Teunion and nine-year-old Troy, will also be among the field.
The players will tee off in three-balls from 7.30am, with Ready Golf in play during the final.
The 2011 Champion Golfer Darren Clarke and Chris Hilton, captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, will present the prizes to the leading three pairs.
The R&A 9 Hole Challenge is central to the organisation’s wider drive to promote this form of golf as an ideal way to enjoy playing the sport in less time, either recreationally or competitively for handicap purposes.
The level of entrants for The R&A 9 Hole Challenge also reflects the continued rise in nine-hole competition rounds throughout Great Britain and Ireland.
Comparing 2017 to 2018, nine-hole competitive men’s rounds in Ireland grew by 91 per cent and women’s by 26 per cent. Among men and women, Scotland saw an overall increase of 33 per cent, England by 20 per cent, and Wales by 12 per cent over the same period.
The 2018 Play 9 event was also the largest participation initiative ever run by Golf Australia, featuring over 130,000 qualifying rounds, and assisted in increasing nine-hole competition rounds by over 10 per cent in 2018 compared to 2017.
Please visit www.randa.org/9HoleChampionship for more information.