Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros may be among the wealth of big names to have featured in competitive tournaments at Coventry Golf Club – but the traditional parkland course will have seen few days as colourful in its 96-year history as the Regional Open Qualifying event which was played there on Wednesday.
It was a spectacle; not just in terms of the golf played by the 108-strong field, which was generally of a high standard, but also because of the dazzling array of high fashion which temporarily transformed the course’s fairways into 6,600 yards of undulating catwalks.
One could not help but draw comparisons to this year’s women’s section at Wimbledon where a preoccupation with style and daft overcoats seems to have detracted from the tennis. Many of the top seeds from the All England Club have been sent packing, as if to emphasise the point that in a traditional sporting arena there is no room for frivolous gimmicks.
The golf course can be a similarly unforgiving place when it comes to separating contenders from the pretenders. There was a young man dressed head to toe in bright, dazzling green and with such preciously coiffured locks that he looked more like a footballer on a Pro-Am than a genuine prospect for a place among the world of golf’s best field. He was not alone; several sartorial nightmares accompanied some fairly abject rounds of golf elsewhere.
The young man in green quickly earned himself the nickname Bogeyman, presumably for his garish attire rather than the quality of his golf, although judging by his irascible temper one suspects his annual 18-hole chance at the big time was not going according to plan.
Either way, the Bogeyman is an unfortunate moniker for a golfer to carry; Parman or Birdieman would be much more agreeable.
But, as is the norm in sport, style so often yields to substance and, mercifully, that was the case here. Rutland Water’s James Waycott, teeing off early, set the tone with a stunning hole-in-one on the 148-yard 7th.
For more sustained excellence, Kenilworth Golf Club assistant professional James Crompton’s round – a superb five-under par 68 – proved as substantive as any. Indeed, it was the best score of the day.
The youngster’s ability to hit long irons with the trajectory and precision of an Exocet missile was mightily impressive. His tee shot on the 221-yard par three 15th, which was playing into wind, provided a perfect example.
With the pin protected by a bunker and placed on the back right of a two-tiered green – the most challenging place it could have been – Crompton hit a three-iron which never lifted above the tree line before coming to rest by the flag. His playing partners blazed far left and short right, like many others did.
While Crompton went about his business largely untroubled by distractions or hampered by the weight of expectation, home favourite Sam Dodds found himself in an altogether different situation.
The 19-year-old was followed by the biggest crowd of the day.
Several reasons why spring to mind. Dodds picked up a golf club for the first time only five years ago and, as one of a handful of amateurs in the field, he shot a fine 71.
Sadly, two-under was not good enough to progress him to the final stages of qualification at Hillside, Southport and Ainsdale and West Lancashire on Sunday and Monday but he undoubtedly is one to watch.
His rhythmically-languid swing makes layers a technical proficiency appear totally natural and, encouragingly, he shakes off his worst shots with a shrug.
After trying to coax a three-wood on to the par-five 16th with his second shot, he ended in the greenside bunker. Shrug preceded a delightful up-and-down for birdie.
Afterwards, Dodds said: “I played solidly, nothing special. The course helped. Being a member here is obviously an advantage.
“I have seen it tougher – but with the wind out there it can be tough because it is quite tight. It was a nice experience playing in front of a big crowd – I could get used to that – but I did not want to get carried away and just focused on my targets.
“It was good to have some support, though.”
He missed out by one shot here after losing in a play-off.
But Dodds, like Crompton, should get used to the crowds because they are players with bright futures.