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Ashworth Ryden high for title win
DEFENDING champion Mark Ashworth insists it remains the dream of every East Lancashire golfer to win the Harold Ryden Trophy despite one of the lowest fields assembled for this year’s event.
The prestigious four-day ELGA competition, which enters its 46th year, begins at Accrington tomorrow and Clitheroe member Ashworth is among the star names hoping to lift silverware next Wednesday.
Just 45 of the allocated 60 places have been taken up, a number which is down on previous years, although several of our top local golfers have other commitments.
Clitheroe’s Daniel Nutter and Blackburn’s Steven McGlynn, the respective 2010 and 2007 Harold Ryden champions, are concen-trating their efforts on Monday’s Open Championship qualifying, while McGlynn also competes in the Brabazon Trophy that begins next Thursday.
Ashworth is also at Open regional qualifying at Clitheroe, with his mid-morning tee-off creating a potential headache if he reaches the Harold Ryden quarter-finals.
But the 44-year-old ex-Lancashire golfer is prepared to put his foot on his car’s acceleration pedal as he chases back-to-back titles.
“I was faced with that problem a couple of years ago,” said Ashworth. “I finished Open qualifying at Clitheroe and only made it to Wilpshire for the Harold Ryden quarter-finals with literally five minutes to spare.
“I was fortunate that the organisers put back my quarter-finals as the last one out of the four. But I ended up losing it.
“It might be a close call again if I score well at the Open qualifying and I have to wait for a play-off, though I think I’ll be okay.
“I can understand that one or two can’t play in the Harold Ryden. Times are tough, everybody is struggling at the moment.
“A couple of guys are concen-trating on the Open and one or two have other commitments.
“But the Harold Ryden remains a big thing for a lot of us. It’s a top scratch competition and there are a lot of lads that would love to win it.”
Ashworth finally got his hands on the trophy 12 months ago after beating Clitheroe club-mate Tony Flanagan in the final at Blackburn.
The pair tee off together at 8.44am in tomorrow’s third group, while other former champions Gary Phillipson, Craig Fort, Gary Blades and Nick Uttley are also in the hunt to recapture the trophy.
A number of younger golfers also present a challenge, including 2010 runner-up Louis Laviscount of Wilpshire and up-and-coming Nelson teenagers Ben Short and Curtis Clarkin.
“It’s wide open this year. It should be a fantastic competition,” said Ashworth, who works at Lee Valley Driving Range in Rishton.
“The conditions could play a big part. Accrington is a good course, but it could play very difficult if it’s windy and wet. Then it’s all about battening down the hatches.
“The main thing is making it to the quarter-finals. It’s a strange competition that you can have a fantastic 36 holes on the opening day, but then lose out in the knockout stages.”
Play begins with 36 holes of strokeplay golf tomorrow and the eight competitors returning the best gross scores qualify for the matchplay quarter-finals that are held on Monday evening.
The semi-finals are on Tuesday, before Wednesday’s final.
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