NEWLY crowned Harold Ryden Trophy champion Jonathan Hurst is aiming to round off a dream week by qualifying for the Open Championship.
Hurst will head to Gailes Links for the final qualifier for the big Royal Liverpool event on the back of winning the most sought-after prize on the East Lancashire golf circuit.
The Pleasington ace, competing in the Harold Ryden Trophy for the first time in 10 years, beat Nelson Curtis Clarkin’s 2&1 in Wednesday’s thrilling final at Rossendale.
Hurst credits his first – and perhaps last – victory in the historic competition as a direct result of the confidence he garnered from making it through to Open final qualifying with a stunning display in his regional qualifier at Clitheroe.
And now the 28-year-old wants to go one step further and set up the chance to go head to head with the likes of Rory McIlroy and defending champion Phil Mickelson for the Claret Jug.
Hurst said: “It feels brilliant to have won the Harold Ryden Trophy.
“It was a great way to mark my return and it was nice to see all the ELGA (East Lancashire Golf Association) officials.
“I came into the trophy with a lot of confidence after how I played at Clitheroe.
“I was actually three over after four holes at Clitheroe but I shot five straight birdies to finish two under par.
“I took that momentum into the Harold Ryden Trophy and now I hope to take the confidence I’ve got from that into the final qualifier for the Open.
“It would be a dream if I could make to the Open. I’ve already had plenty of local support with people calling me and messaging me on Facebook to say they’ll be at Royal Liverpool if I make it!”
Hurst knows all about the pressure of playing in a final qualifier for the Open having done it before four years ago.
He went close to making it through to the 2010 showpiece at St Andrews after finishing in 10th place in the final qualifier at Kingsbarns.
“It’s all about playing steady golf and playing with confidence,” Hurst added.
Hurst will head up to Gailes Links in Irvine on Sunday for two days of practice. Having never played the Scottish course before, he wants to familiarise himself with the greens before the final qualifier gets under way on Tuesday.
Should he make it through to the Open there is every chance that would help fulfil his ambition of turning professional.
And if that happens that would prevent him from defending the Harold Ryden Trophy.