Three Australians playing in their first Major this week are making the most of the experience — and trying not to be too awestruck along the way.
“This is the sort of thing you dreamed of when you first thought about playing seriously,” said Nick Cullen, beneath the grandstand on the finishing hole of the famed Royal Lytham & St Annes, home of the 2012 Open Championship.
Cullen, 27, who won the OneAsia season-opening Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open, made it to Royal Lytham by nabbing one of three places up for grabs at International Final Qualifying in Australia in February.
Such is the strength of OneAsia’s golf that all three places available at Kingston Heath in Melbourne went to full-time members of the tour, with Ashley Hall and Aaron Townsend also making it through to their first Major.
“Its nice to play a big tournament where all the big names are playing and where you get looked after so well,” said Cullen, a left-hander who hails from Adelaide.
“I played a few holes with Rory (McIlroy) and it was great. Its where I want to be right now and where I want to be all the time.”
Hall was also relishing his first Major having tried and failed to qualify at least half a dozen times in the past.
“I’m loving it out there,” he said.
“I just feel special walking up the 18th with all the grandstands up. I’ve never seen anything so big!”
Like almost every other player in the tournament — champion or debutant — Hall, 29, is accompanied by his family. His wife and infant son are here, while his father is caddying for him.
“I don’t think I’m getting recognized by my face, but people will see my bag or on the scoreboard, and they will call me by name and say, like, “good shot Ash’ or something like that.”
The burly Melburnian (left), who has made every cut on OneAsia this season, has an extra incentive to make it into the money this weekend.
“The family are certainly enjoying the merchandise tent,” he said, where even a basic cap sells for £20 and a simple ball marker — the cheapest item on sale — goes for £2.
That said, he could fancy a gamble on winning the title, given local bookies are offering quite generous odds.
“I haven’t had a flutter myself, but I know a few who have bet on me. I have heard 1,000-1! Those are very juicy odds.”
Townsend, meanwhile, sought out the company of fellow Aussies John Senden and Marcus Fraser who are full-time members of the PGA and European Tours respectively, to play a practice round on Wednesday.
“It has been a very cool experience and I’m enjoying being inside the ropes at such a huge sporting event,” the 31-year-old from Newcastle said. “Everyone has been very welcoming with words of support.”