THE road to Royal Troon begins for ambitious South Cumbria golfers on Monday when the qualifying rounds for a place in the 145th Open Championship are staged across 13 courses.

Among the hopefuls challenging for a place alongside the game’s elite at the Scottish course on July 14 are Ulverston’s Luke Walker and Furness and Royal Lytham member Chris Kendall.

Walker returns to the Yorkshire course of Moortown where he carded a respectable four-over-par 75 in last year’s qualifier, while Kendall makes the short trip to face the challenging Fairhaven course.

Professionals Paul Rawlinson and Gareth Butcher from Zone Golf head for West Lancashire where Askam’s Butcher will be hoping that a change of venue will bring an improvement in fortunes after last year’s challenge resulted in a disappointing 12 over par 83 at Moortown.

He had no complaints about the course but said: “I wasn’t very pleased with my round. I didn’t hit the ball very good but I putted fairly well.”

He also had a few words of encouragement for those taking part in an Open qualifier for the first time.

“It was a good event to play in with lots of people following us around.”

With more than 1,000 players from home and abroad battling it out for a handful of vacancies in the main event, the challenge is as stiff as ever for local talent, but they will be in good company.

It will also be a busy weekend on the local scene at Barrow and Furness clubs. The occasion at Barrow on Sunday is the President’s Trophy – a 36-hole medal event for some 60 of the club’s members. This test of stamina also serves as a qualifying event for a place in the club championship. Although the President’s Trophy is a handicap event, the places will go to the players returning the 16 best gross scores. They will then contest a knock-out event to claim the title of club champion.

Over at the Walney course on Saturday golfers from Rossendale and Stoneyholme (Carlisle) will be among the visitors challenging local players for the Dick Keay Trophy. A total of 134 players have entered the 4BBB event which marks another busy weekend following last week’s Huartson Tankard, a trophy presented to the club by an Oscar Huartson back in 1930, and won this year by Phil Roberts.