Coventry Golf Club’s traditional layout and meandering parkland 18 holes are all that stand between the region’s best golfers and Royal Birkdale after the Finham Park course was named as an Open Qualifying venue until 2013.
A field of 108 of the Midland’s top professionals and amateurs will play one round on Wednesday next week in an attempt to gain entry to the final qualifying stage at Royal Birkdale, where this year’s Open Championship will be played.
The 1912 Tom Vardon-designed course, which has taken over from Trentham Golf Club near Stoke, is no stranger to staging prominent professional tournaments.
The PGA Championship was played at Finham in 1960 and the Piccadilly Tournament, the winners of which include Peter Oosterhuis and Sam Torrance, was played there between 1973 and 1976.
Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Tony Jacklin are among the other big-name golfers to have played competitively at the venue in the 1980s.
Head professional Phil Weaver, chairman of the Professional Golfers’ Association, said: “The club has an illustrious history and it is an honour that Regional Open Qualifying will be held here for the next six years.
“Tiger Woods has said his knee injury will prevent him from playing in the Open this year - but that won’t affect us. The field to play here will comprise some top amateurs and local professionals, several of whom will play on the junior Tours.
“People can expect to see a good standard of golf on a demanding course.
“The club’s reputation, tradition and location were important factors in the R&A’s decision to stage the event here and we are delighted that we successfully met its stringent requirements.
“We have a course to challenge the best players and we can promise a great day’s golf in beautiful surroundings - what more could any player want?”
A low score would be start, preferably somewhere around the 68 that Harry Vardon hit the first time he played the course that his older brother designed nearly a century ago.
Anything in the 60s should be enough to qualify - only the top 15 per cent will enter the final stage at Birkdale later in July.
Length will not pose too much of a problem. The course measures a manageable 6,601 yards - but accuracy is key: tight tree-lined fairways, small greens and demanding rough are the most pertinent hazards for players.
Two of the main favourites for qualification are from the home club. Course record-holder Matt Cryer, for years one of the country’s leading amateurs, is in the field, alongside fellow amateur, Sam Dodds, also from Coventry. Dodds, 19, won the Midlands under-19 Championship last year and has a bright future.
Another player to watch is the big-hitting Robert Steele, who has been playing on the EuroPro Tour for the past few seasons.
While Cryer holds a course record 62 at Steele’s home club, Kenilworth, Steele shares the joint course record at Coventry with him and Robert Perrett, all of whom have shot an eight-under par 65.
Steele qualified for the Open at St Andrews in 2005.