Aaron Townsend’s chief memory of winning International Final Qualifying for Britain’s 2012 Open Championship earlier this year was heavy rain and gale-force winds that forced play to be suspended for hours at Melbourne’s Kingston Heath golf course.
The Australian OneAsia player may well have to draw deep on that memory if he is to shine in his first-ever Major this week, as the forecast for the Royal Lytham St Annes course — on the east coast of Lancashire in England’s north — is for heavy rain and strong winds through most of the championship.
“On the day I was not sure what was going to happen due to the weather,” said Townsend, but he rallied to win the 36-hole event by two shots to qualify on his fourth attempt along with fellow OneAsia members Nick Cullen and Ashley Hall.
After missing the cut in the opening two OneAsia events of the season, Townsend found his form on the Korean swing and posted a best finish of joint 13th in the SK Telecom Open on Jeju Island in May. He currently lies in 32nd place on the Order of Merit with earnings of nearly $15,000.
While his best finish on OneAsia remains joint sixth in the Australian PGA Championship in 2010, Townsend hopes a strong showing at the Open this week will be the catalyst that helps ignite a career that has sometimes promised more than it has delivered.
A big Liverpool football team fan and also a follower of the Newcastle Knights Rugby League team, Townsend has had 14 starts on the Nationwide Tour (now Web.com Tour) and several in Japan, but his most significant professional result was winning the New South Wales Open on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2008.
“I feel that I have had good preparation leading up to the Open,” said Townsend, who flew early to Britain to play some classic links courses including Royal St George’s, Southport and Ainsdale and Royal Cinque Ports.
“I have been working on hitting low shots and distance control of flight.”
That said, Townsend admits he does not have a great deal of experience of playing in Britain, although he has competed in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
“I have sought advice from a lot of people though,” he said, “especially those that have had experience in big events. I feel it is important to gain local knowledge also.”
Townsend — who curiously has a Wikipedia entry written entirely in Dutch for which he offers no explanation — was first introduced to the sport via a grandmother who lived on a golf course. The young Townsend used to fish balls out of the water and hit with clubs that he had cut down to size.
At Royal Lytham St. Annes Townsend will be accompanied by his wife, Sally, as well as coach Neville Bell. A close friend will caddy for him.
The 31-year-old’s penchant for less than perfect conditions is shown by his choice of players to accompany him on a dream Open round.
“My ultimate three ball would be Tom Watson and Padraig Harrington,” he said, two players who have both won the championship in poor weather.