Matt Ford has been trying for decades to qualify for the World Open. Now he’s playing the biggest one yet

The 44-year-old has fired tens of thousands of shots in more than 280 championships, but when he rides from the opening bow of the old session on Thursday, it will be his first swing in a major championship, in a professional career that stretches. almost two decades.

“I tried to work it out the other day, how many times have I tried,” Ford told CNN, deciding on an estimate of 24 unsuccessful attempts so far.

The son of a professional footballer, Ford grew up in the English town of Swindon and wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. After first choosing a club at the age of ten, it was only when he finished school at the age of 18 that he threw himself into practicing full-time golf.

“I loved football, but it was also very frustrating, while golf is all about yourself,” Ford said.

“Even though golf is just a game of control, you can still have a lot of control in an individual sport.”

Ford became a professional at the age of 25 and got off to a strong start, taking part in the 2005 BMW PGA Championship (formerly the British PGA Championship) at Wentworth.

Participating in one of the European tour’s tours gave the Englishman a big boost to confidence, but by 2013 he was on the verge of moving away from the sport. Despite a few other appearances on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour), Ford has spent the vast majority of his career on the Nutrient Series, the Challenge Tour.

Challenge Tour Challenges

Five laps in second place was a highlight, but the ongoing long journeys around the world to the tracks that are far less luxurious than the European Tours and the PGA Tours have taken their toll mentally and above all financially.

Only the top 10 contestants in the 156-player field on the Challenge Tour win “realistically” enough prize money to support the cost of playing the event, with Ford estimating that more than half of the remaining players exceed $ 1 000 per week lost.

At Ford’s own discretion, he lost more money than he earned, and with his wife Susie and two young children to support, the pressure of “playing to live” was literally a challenge.

“The number of times I thought about giving up this game and, as many people say, ‘getting a decent job’, it was difficult,” he said.

“It is emotional because of the way my family has supported me. I did not necessarily make as much money as I would like to make it comfortable. ”

Ford shoots from a knockout during the Spain Challenge in Cadiz, Spain, in May.

A major breakthrough came in late 2014 when Ford earned his ticket to the qualifying school for the European Tour, which opened the door for him to take part in nearly 60 European tours over the next two years.

He lost his card before the 2017 season, but withdrew until he competed in the final qualifiers for the Open Qualifiers Tournament at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent, England in July.

An enthusiastic start in round two put Ford in a commanding position at 5-bottom en route to the final 10 holes of qualifying, before dropping four strokes through the next four holes that looked like they were a familiar chapter. in his open qualifying story would open.

“You start wondering, ‘Did you inflate it?'” He recalls. What did you do? your idiot “.

However, when Susie and the two kids got to school at the last six holes, they watched Ford fly to a great finish. He shot an eagle on his way to pick up those four strokes he lost to finish 5-under and qualify to win the event, two points from the runner-up.

Ford stands in line and hits the 14th green during the Italian Open Challenge Championships in Viterbo, Italy, in July.

The biggest ever

In addition to realizing his childhood dream of playing in the World Open – the historic 150th edition on the legendary old track – Ford is also keen to share the experience with his family.

“Sorry teachers,” his children got their own score with days off to watch their father compete in Scotland. Desperate to meet Tiger Woods, Ford has already kept his promise and tweeted a photo of his daughter with the three-time Open champion on Wednesday.

“They are as happy and excited as I am,” he said. “The tournaments they walked around with me could watch every shot and there were not many people around.

“It’s going to drive St Andrews crazy with so many people … It’s going to be a big event, people say it’s going to be one of the biggest ever.”

Experience, potential salary and opportunities that may occur in future DP World Tour events; Ford cites many reasons to be excited this week. But when the lifelong goal was to reach the first knock, what end goal is going to be there now?

“Am I thinking of winning the championship?” said Ford. No, not really. “” But there’s no reason why I can not have a great week and who knows what might happen. It’s golf and if I can run, you do not know.

Golf legend Tom Watson remembers his open classic at St Andrews

“I do not set very specific goals for myself other than the smile on my face and I enjoy the week. If I do, I hope to score good goals. ”

Whatever the outcome, it will certainly not be due to a lack of effort.

Ford is scheduled to kick off its first round Thursday at 11:15 GMT (6:15 a.m. ET).

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