Hayling’s Toby Burden became the first Hampshire player to win the English Champion of Champions trophy at Oxfordshire’s Frilford Heath, three years ago.
That put his name alongside the likes of Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood, who have serious Open Championship pedigree.
And having played well at Frilford at EuroPro and European Tour Qualifying Schools in his days trying to make it as a pro a decade ago, the decision to pay his £150 entry fee and head up the A34 was a no brainer, even for the busy Whiteley-based recruitment agency worker.
But the dream of getting to one of the four Final Qualifying events at the end of this month – where just 12 spots are likely to be on offer to start in the Open at St Andrews, the ‘Home of Golf’, was dashed by Frilford’s Red Course that he knows so well.
Burden, the Hampshire Order of Merit holder, could only shoot a level-par 72. In an eventful start, he traded three birdies for four bogeys on the front nine, including two in the first three holes.
But the man who became the first golfer to reach three Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Channel Islands Amateur Championship finals in a row since Richard Bland in the mid 1990s, could only make one more birdie on the back nine.
That came at the 13th but in pushing for the couple more he needed to get to the two-under mark he needed to guarantee a spot in Final Qualifying, he dropped shots at the 16th and 17th .
Ironically, Stoneham’s Ryan Moody, the player Burden beat to the Order of Merit title last September, was the only Hampshire Amateur to qualify, surviving a nine-man play-off for seven places at The Buckinghamshire.
Two club pros from Lee-on-the-Solent did progress through the first stage, and are a step nearer St Andrews.
Former Hampshire Boys Champion James Ablett, a regular winner on the PGA South circuit, and former Hampshire Colts member Lewis Scott, who has been tearing it up on the Hampshire PGA circuit, qualified at Moor Park, near Watford, and Burhill, respectively.
Scott, the current leader on the county PGA Order of Merit, finished tied third at Burhill, the Weybridge club where Ryder Cup start Paul Casey is a member, thanks to a level-par 72.
Ablett, who won the Hampshire U18s title in 1995 – the year before Justin Rose claimed the trophy –was tied for ninth on three-under after a 69.
But Lee’s only Walker Cup player, Sam Hutsby, who played on the European Tour between 2009 and 2013, could only shoot 77 at Frilford.
Hampshire’s former Amateur Champions Scott Gregory (Corhampton) was tied for 25th at Burhill, while Wentworth’s Harry Ellis finished tied 48th at The Buckinghamshire.
Final Qualifying takes place at Holinwell, Prince’s, St Anne’s Old Links and Fairmont St Andrews on June 28, when European Tour players not already exempt will join the race for a place in the Open field.