DARREN WALKLEY is ready to make an impression at the biggest tournament of his career and insisted: I expect to challenge.
The Hayling amateur has been in scintillating form so far this season and claimed the recent Hampshire Amateur Championships with a dominant performance.
These days, I go into tournaments feeling like I can winDarren Walkley
But he will need to raise his game to an even higher level to compete with the top domestic and international amateurs if he is to carry off the Brabazon Trophy – the English Amateur strokeplay crown.
The step-up in standard does not faze him though.
Walkley said: ‘These days, I go into tournaments feeling like I can win.
‘I know it will be a very strong field.
‘But if I play well, I expect to be up there challenging.
‘It doesn’t always work out that way.
‘If it got to a stage where I didn’t think I can win, I wouldn’t bother going.
‘But if I want to have a future in golf, I need to do well in these sorts of events or at least feel I can do well in them.
‘It’s the biggest tournament of my career so far and there are a lot of good players but I am confident.’
Walkley is not the only local talent going for glory.
Hayling club mate Kevin Rickman, Corhampton duo Scott Gregory and Sam Day and Rowlands Castle’s Tom Robson will all fancy their chances of having a crack at the coveted title.
And the region has produced several champions in recent times with Neil Raymond winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012.
Those wins completed a three-year lock-out for Hampshire when he followed on from Darren Wright who lifted the trophy in 2010.
The list of previous winners down the years includes some illustrious names with US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, Sandy Lyle, Gordon Brand Jnr, Ronan Rafferty, Peter McEvoy and Peter Hanson all on the honours board since the competition started in 1947.
This year it is held at Notts (Hollinwell) Golf Club with 72 holes to decide the winner, starting today.
Walkley said: ‘I haven’t played there before but I will have a practice round and my game is in good shape.
‘I’m not sure if it will suit my game but I’ve been playing pretty well everywhere.
‘It’s about hitting fairways and greens and taking chances when they come along.
‘I have no idea what sort of score I will need to shoot.
‘A lot will depend on the weather but the first challenge is to make the cut.
‘I’m hitting it well at the moment.’
He will also have some moral support out on the course with partner Jade caddying for him.
Walkley said: ‘I’ve got the missus on the bag again.
‘She was with me for the County Championships so she’s a good omen!
‘She keeps me pretty chilled out if I start getting frustrated.
‘It’s nice having her there to push the trolley but I take care of the club selection and reading the greens.
‘We don’t tend to have a chat about the kids or who is getting the shopping when I’m playing.
‘I try to get in the zone and she understands that.
‘But if I win, it will be good to have a nice caddy to cuddle!’