Ireland’s Alex Maguire admits competing in The Open is a “surreal” experience as he rubs shoulders with his heroes at Royal Liverpool.
The 22-year-old is one of six amateur golfers competing in The 151st Open, having achieved his place in the world-class field as the first winner of the new Open Amateur Series.
Maguire topped a mini-order of merit across The St Andrews Links Trophy, The Amateur Championship and the European Amateur Championship to line up among 156 players on the Wirral.
For the Liverpool supporter, travelling across the Irish Sea to compete in the final men’s major of the year is simply the stuff of dreams.
“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Maguire, a member of the Laytown and Bettystown club.
“I’m very lucky to have played really well at the right time. To play the best golf I’ve ever played in the events that were counting towards the Series is so, so special.
“To play in this major, out of all of them, is so surreal. To even be here, seeing players walk by, guys I’ve watched on TV for years like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, is crazy. I’m excited to compete against them and see where my game stands up against the best in the world.
“To be able to play with essentially my golfing heroes and guys I’ve looked up to, copied swings and tried to emulate over the last few years, is definitely surreal.”
Maguire played Royal Liverpool as a 13-year-old on a visit with his dad just two months ahead of the last Open at the venue in 2014. To return in these circumstances is simply special.
“It’s phenomenal to be here and the facilities are second to none,” added Maguire, who recently helped Ireland to a bronze medal at the European Amateur Team Championship in Estonia.
“I’m very, very excited. Over the next days that might turn into nerves.
“I’m a Liverpool fan as well so it’s nice to be able to play in Liverpool. It’s an amazing venue and the set up is spectacular.”
Christo Lamprecht is another amateur with big ambitions this week, given the leading amateur at Royal Liverpool wins the coveted Silver Medal.
At 6’ 8’’, the South African stood tall at Hillside to triumph in The Amateur last month – helped by his prodigious driving.
“It’s a surreal moment being here,” said Lamprecht, echoing the words of Maguire.
“It’s pretty cool seeing all the stands. I’m just happy to be here and taking it one step at a time.
“It kind of sunk in when I got my entry form for The Open that I was playing. I’m just going to have some fun this week.”
South African knowledge
Lamprecht has played with three of his countrymen in practice at Royal Liverpool.
Major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel as well as Branden Grace – who created history at Royal Birkdale in The Open in 2017 by becoming the first man to shoot 62 in a major during his third round – have all been offering guidance to the 22-year-old.
He added: “The South African lads have all been helping me out. It’s really special that we all stick together no matter what age we are or where we are in our careers. It’s something I hold dear to my heart. I love playing links golf and it’s truly an honour to be here.”
Australia’s Harrison Crowe, the Asia-Pacific Amateur champion, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira from Argentina, the Latin America Amateur winner, and Jose Luis Ballester Barrio of Spain, the European Amateur victor, also take their places at Hoylake.
“I feel pretty good, it’s kind of hard not to out here,” said Crowe. “It feels like a privilege to be out here and I’m trying not to focus on who is here so much. I’m trying to focus on it being another round of golf and hopefully I can play four of them.
“I was here last month and had a couple of practice rounds. It’s beautiful, super tough and I’m glad I’ve seen it with it teeth out this week in tougher conditions. It will be a grind out there and I’m excited to get going. For links greens, you don’t usually see them so fast as they are.
“Everything out here is awesome and the set up is incredible. I feel a bit more comfortable having played at Augusta (for the Masters Tournament) and it’s great to get another major in the books.”
Eyes are also on a Tiger this week. While 15-time major champion Woods is not in the field due to injury, 19-year-old German amateur Tiger Christensen is in the mix.
With rounds of 68 and 67 at West Lancashire earlier this month, he tied for fourth place with Matt Fitzpatrick’s younger brother Alex in a Final Qualifying event offering five Open spots from a line-up of 72 players.
Christensen was the only amateur to make it through at any of the four courses.
Christensen has been asked frequently about his name in the lead up to The Open and said: “I would love to see the ‘old’ Tiger in the field but to get one Tiger in the field is pretty cool.
“It’s pretty special to be here. It’s just sinking in. It’s what you look forward to when you’re young and one day you want to play here every time.”