Jack Senior: Heysham’s rising star born to play in The Open

Jack Senior. Picture: Getty Images
Jack Senior. Picture: Getty Images

You could say that Jack Senior was born to play in The Open.

Heysham’s rising Challenge and European star arrived in the world on the day the late, great Seve Ballesteros won golf’s most iconic event at Royal Lytham on July 18, 1988.

Rory McIlroy is amongst the favourites at this year's Open.

Rory McIlroy is amongst the favourites at this year's Open.

Just under 28 years later and the former amateur standout will take his place in the elite field at Royal Troon who will battle for the Claret Jug from this Thursday, July 14.

“My name was and possibly could have been Seve Senior but my mum and dad decided not to go with that,” Senior jokes.

After years of trying to qualify as both an amateur and a professional, the former Ripley St Thomas pupil blitzed his closing nine at Hillside Golf Club, Southport, to seal his spot.

Now, having watched on television and attended plenty of events in person, Senior is determined not to be a spectator again.

“You obviously want to make the cut and walk down the 18th on the Sunday afternoon and soak up the atmosphere but there’s no reason why you can’t go and compete,” says the 27-year-old.

“You’ve just got to believe in yourself and focus on hitting the right shots.

“There’s 155 guys there all with the same ambition of lifting the Claret Jug on the Sunday afternoon.

“Only one guy’s going to do it but you’re all in there.

“It’s a bit like the FA Cup. I’m a Morecambe playing against a wide variety of teams.

“But in this case you’ve got the Champions League teams as well, you’re Barcelonas, the likes of Dustin Johnson who’s just won back-to-back events in the States. “I’m just going to take in the experience of it all and just see how things how go.”

Senior and his team, including Heysham Golf Club professional Ryan Done, his coach of 20 years, will be doing all they can to make it to make it feel like any other tournament.

North Lancashire’s premier player isn’t kidding himself though and knows it will all change when the famous words, “on the tee from England, Jack Senior” are uttered as he prepares to make his opening tee shot.

“Once you hear that the butterflies will start to fly but I think the thing is you’ve just got to embrace the situation you’re in,” says Senior.

“The hours and hours I’ve put in as a kid and since I’ve turned pro working with Ryan have worked towards this.

“But he’s going to be up there by my side so I’m going to have a familiar face.

“He’s going to be there on the range and by my side before I tee off in every round.

“That’s the big thing, you’ve got to try and make things as normal as possible and not think about it any differently.

“It’s easy for people to say ‘you’re going to be feeling the pressure and you’re going to be doing this or that’.

“But at the end of the day you’re in control of your own destiny no matter what sport you’re in.”

Having played in the Walker Cup and US Amateur Championship before turning pro and this year having experienced the European Tour for the first time, Senior has some experience of playing in front of big crowds, something which he relishes.

“There’s going to be a lot of people up there, it’s an Open which has the highest attendance out of the courses,” says the Challenge Tour winner.

“But it’s good when there’s a big crowd because it automatically makes you focus more.

“You automatically think I’m here to impress these guys or these guys are here to be entertained.

“On the first tee it will be different but when you’re off the first tee you’re into your stride and you get in your own little bubble and won’t think anyone’s there.

“It’s you, the caddy (Jonathan Zadek) and 18 holes and nothing’s changed.

“It’s easy to say that and that’s it another 72 holes of golf. But it’s not that, there’s all the theatre and all the drama.

“You’ve just got to try and enjoy it.”

One thing the Overton man should enjoy is the links challenge, despite never having played Troon, having grown up golfing by the sea.

The possibility of extreme conditions is something that should give Senior and other outsiders heart given The Open’s habit of throwing up unlikely winners.

“Todd Hamilton obviously won it at Troon last time it was there (in 2004),” he says.

“And there’s all the amateurs who’ve done well because they’ve grown up on links golf.

“To me you’ve got such an advantage, especially if the weather’s set how it’s looking like it’s going to be.

“It’s going to be breezy, it’s going to be tricky, so that’s only going to work in my favour.

“If the weather’s set fair the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy can blow us away.

“Where as if it’s bad then it’s a bit of a leveller.”

Whatever the outcome come the end of the weekend, Senior knows that after this taste of the big time it’s something he won’t want to let slip.

“That’s your dream, to be out there playing week in, week out in the big events, playing the WGCs (World Golf Championships), playing in the majors,” he says.

“You’ve just got to take things as they come. Golf is a career where your career is a long one.

“I’ve only been pro four years and my professional career’s going to last 30 years.

“You’ve only got to look at the age of the winners on tour.

“Obviously they’re getting younger. I call them your superfreaks, your Jordan Spieths and Rory McIlroys who do just come out and absolutely blitz it.

“On a whole the average age of an Open champion varies. You’ve got your (Phil) Micklesons and people like that who are contending every year.

“The more and more you gain experience the more and more you feel comfortable in the atmosphere.”

There is full coverage of The Open on Sky Sports.