St Annes Old Links looks forward to welcoming members ... and Open Championship hopefuls
Golf courses across the Fylde coast are looking forward to reopening after lockdown a week on Monday – and none more so than St Annes Old Links, which has a particularly exciting year ahead.
The course has been selected to stage both regional and final qualifying tournaments ahead of the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Kent.
The 18-hole regional qualifying competition will take place on June 26 or 27, quickly followed by final qualifying played over 36 holes on Tuesday the 29th.
St Annes Old Links has staged final qualifying for the past two Opens, with the regional stage at nearby Fairhaven.
After The Open was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, organisers the R&A have opted to stage regional and final qualifying at the same venues, with Covid protocols in place.
Old Links is ready for the added responsibility and secretary Jane Donohoe told The Express: “We’ve had our first planning meeting with the R&A Championship Committee via Zoom.
“There is a lot of background preparation and it’s two years since we last hosted qualifiers, so we have to refresh memories and this year we are tagging on a second day for regional qualifiers. It’s good that the R&A has the confidence in us to run both events together.”
Should the government’s roadmap beyond the pandemic remain on course, then all social restrictions will have been lifted the week before the qualifiers, which could bring its own issues.
Jane added: “We could be inundated if there are no more restrictions.
“We could be blitzed by the public wanting to come and watch, especially if we have some big names, which is lovely but would be another aspect to contend with.
“We have to plan for the worst-case scenario in terms of restrictions not having eased and us having to stage a very safe tournament.
“The R&A will go through all their requirements with us, so we will know exactly how it will run and how our members will be affected.
“We will have a further meeting with the R&A when they have more plans.”
The immediate priority, however, is the club’s reopening from March 29, when government guidelines allow outdoor sports to resume.
Jane added: “We have been preparing a big newsletter for members with all the ‘dos and don’ts’ because we don’t want anyone thinking the pandemic is all over. Hopefully, this time, when we reopen we can stay open.
“The members are champing at the bit to get back on the course.
“We’ve seen them walking past on a daily basis to see how the course is looking.
“We reopen the day after the clocks go forward, which helps us because longer days should make it less challenging to get a tee-time.
“We have enough slots for 320 people per day playing fourball.
“We aren’t planning any restrictions this time on the number of rounds people can book per week because we should be able to accommodate everyone.
“For the first two weeks the only indoor facilities open will be the toilets in the locker room, then hopefully we can open the locker room for changing, and then have the bar and catering open from May 17.”
If anything positive has come out of lockdown for the golf clubs, it has enabled courses to be prepared immaculately.
“The course is in fantastic condition after a reasonable winter, unlike the one last year,” said Jane.
“We’ve been able to get on with projects and the team have been able to work very hard while the course has been closed.
“The fairways have made a great recovery and work has taken place to keep them well drained.
“We’ve discovered another old well – there are a lot around the course – and we’ve purchased a tractor and a water bowser.
“The objective is to keep the course well drained, with our own irrigation system reducing our dependence on piped water.”
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