Staying positive and enjoying the experience: the two boxes Sam Locke is determined to have ticked when he looks back on his dream major debut an hour from his home in Stonehaven.
The 19-year-old amateur secured his spot in the 147th Open Championship by winning one of the final qualifiers at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. That eye-catching success has earned him a crack at the Silver Medal, facing three rivals in the battle for that prize as leading amateur.
“The whole experience has been brilliant so far,” said Locke, who is mentored by Paul Lawrie, the winner here in 1999, and works for Lawrie’s wife, Marian, as a barista in the coffee shop at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen.
“I played 18 holes on Monday, just to get a feel for it, see how the ball was reacting and get a game plan going. I played alright as well. I played nine holes with Julian Suri as he was only playing nine and then finished the back nine myself.
“Paul Lawrie walked round with me. It was useful. Obviously I have to develop a plan that suits me. The way that Paul sees a hole may not be a shot that I like and vice versa but having him there is a massive help.
“The course is really firm, but it is good. The greens are a little softer but the fairways are very firm. Some of the shots downwind are going really far. The numbers you are writing down for maximum distance sound a bit silly at the time. It is a proper links test.”
Locke, who has been highly rated by Lawrie since he joined his successful junior foundation in the north-east, added: “I have only played Carnoustie once before this week at a sponsor’s day. I was playing off the forward tees so I was able to bang a driver over the bunkers at a lot of the holes but you can’t do that off the back tees. It will be a few more irons off the tee to stay short of them and then longer irons into the green.”
Also hoping to pull off some amateur dramatics in Angus are Jovan Rebula, the nephew of Ernie Els, who secured his spot by winning the Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen last month. Dane Nicolai Hojgaard, the newly-crowned European Amateur champion, and China’s Yuxin Lin, last year’s Asian Amateur winner, are the other non-paid players in the field.
“It is the biggest event there is with all the best players in the world,” added Locke, who is coached by his dad, Andrew. “You have to embrace this in a good way. It is a chance to show everyone what I can do. You have to be positive and enjoy the experience.
“It is great going down the 18th with all the grandstands. I know people say I have nothing to lose this week but obviously I have my own goals I have set for myself. I will be trying to do the best I can and make a name for myself on the biggest stage. I am approaching it the same way I would any tournament and see what we can do.”
In his group tomorrow will be Brandt Snedeker, who was beaten 5&3 by Lawrie in the singles in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah”, and Australian Cameron Davis. “It is a great draw. I can’t wait,” he said. “Brandt Snedeker has had an amazing career. I’m sure we will have fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”