A former Myerscough College golf student shared the fairway with the world’s elite after qualifying for The Open.
Paul Kinnear went through the college’s AASE (Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence) programme between 2009 and 20011, a heavily practical course that focussed on the playing side of the game. This allowed Paul to progress to representing England, and now after coming through qualifying tournaments, he has earned a place in the world famous championships at St Andrews.
Still an amateur, 21-year-old Paul competed in a final qualifying round at Gailes Links, and made the main event after making a birdie on the first hole of a three-man play-off for two spots in the tournament, the 144th to be held. A week earlier Paul shot a one over par 73 in the Regional Qualifier at West Lancashire, to put him through to the next stage, and also to give him first place.
Paul was also a talented footballer, and played central midfield for the Tranmere Rovers youth teams for eight years, but golf then became his main focus and two seasons ago he won the Faldo Series UK Championship at West Lancashire - after a four-hole play-off - and then the Grand Final in America. That led to him being invited to compete in the European Tour's Madeira Islands Open last season.
Paul says: ‘’I took up golf from a young age and studying it at Myerscough College came to my attention when I was sixteen. I just wanted to improve and see what happened, so I worked as hard as I could and now here I am.
‘’You always know you can play, it’s just how better you want to get. At Myerscough I was constantly assessed weekly and took in everything I was taught to try and improve. It’s been a good road for me and my college course really helped me to get here.
‘’It was tough at times having to combine playing for England while still doing the best I could on my college programme but I managed to combine the two well.’’
Paul almost missed out on even attempting to qualify for The Open due to injury: ‘’I was out with an injury since February and wasn’t ready for the start of the season and so I struggled. Then around a month ago I felt fully fit again and started to feel good and I had three good weeks on the bounce to qualify.
‘’At the final event I was up against both European & Challenge tour players and was one of only three from a field of 72 to qualify.’’
And Paul says he’s now looking forward to mixing it with some of the world’s best: ‘’The Open will be amazing and to compete with the elite players and see where my game is compared to theirs.
‘’I’ve got a few practice rounds with top players to get used to how they play. That will lift my level and could make a difference in the tournament itself. It will be a massive learning curve and I will just enjoy every minute of it.’’
Craig Lea is Myerscough College’s Head Academic Golf Professional and coached Paul during his time at the college. He says: ‘’The magnitude of his achievement can’t be underestimated - he’s qualified for one of only four major tournaments in world golf.
‘’He deserves it after five and a half years of doing things properly. Hard work gets results and I can’t give him enough credit from where he’s come. Just to watch him evolve is great to see.’’
Craig adds: ‘’We’re seeing a number of students now go onto great things. Golf is at least ten year plan and you can’t reach the top quickly – here at Myerscough it’s up to the students to run with it and have the right attitude and drive.
‘’The key thing for Paul is the environment he’s going into. He has no pressure and he should enjoy every hole and learn first and foremost. It’ll be an amazing experience for him.’’
Paul says he’s now focussed on using his Open qualification as a springboard to turn fully professional in the very near future: ‘’Hopefully I’ll be a pro very soon and this will open doors for me to try and get a card for the main tour. A month ago I was looking for a day job and now I’m playing in the open. It’s unbelievable.
‘’Even the best players hit bad shots and it’s small margins when you’re on the course. Once I’m out there I know that whoever I’m up against is only human and were once like me. It’s a great opportunity to show what I can do.’’
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by Dave Salmon