Young pair chase Open place

Scott Gregory

Gregory and Ellis key men for Walker Cup mission

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Talented duo Ben Lobacz and Billy Mckenzie will begin their quest to join the field for The Open today.

The Hampshire youngsters will be aiming to come through the first stage of qualifying at East Sussex National and Hankley Common respectively.

They know the odds are stacked against them, though, with perhaps as few as just six places available at each course to reach the next phase.

But both still harbour hopes of reaching Muirfield next month – and playing against the cream of the world’s golfing talent.

Lobacz, who was runner-up at the recent Hampshire Champion-ship, said: ‘Plenty of amateurs have come through qualifying down the years.

‘I know this week is just the first step but I have found some form and to just get through to final qualifying would be amazing – and a great achievement in itself.

‘After that, who knows?

‘Anything is possible, just ask Justin Rose.

‘What happened in the county championship really has given me a huge shot in the arm confidence-wise.

‘The experience of playing and beating people like Tom Robson and Martin Young has proved I can live with these guys.

‘It taught me a lot about staying patient.’

Mckenzie has made real improvements in recent months.

And he believes Hankley Common is ideal for his game after he reached final qualifying last year.

The Rowlands Castle amateur said: ‘I have been feeling really good since the Hampshire Championships.

‘I have practiced hard as I don’t want to get that losing feeling too many times.

‘It’s made me more determined to practice and work hard.

‘Hankley suits my game well.

‘It’s really tight so hitting fairways is key and that’s a big strength to my game.

‘I will be taking lots of confidence into the event as I’ve done it before.

‘Playing final stage last year was a massive eye-opener to how good you have to be.

‘I will be over the moon to get there again and this time will be ready to get myself into contention.’