Three of the most outstanding links courses in the North-West of England – Formby, Hillside and Southport & Ainsdale – will host the Monday Qualifying event prior to the 2013 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex, when American Fred Couples defends his title at Royal Birkdale from 25-28 July.
Sandwiched neatly between Royal Birkdale and Southport & Ainsdale, Hillsideis recognised as one of the jewels in the crown of that magnificent coastal sand belt and is a familiar venue for many of the European Senior Tour’s greatest competitors.
Founded in 1911 and redesigned by the renowned golf course architect, Fred Hawtree, in 1957, Hillside has staged three prominent tournaments on The European Tour as well as the 2003 English Senior Open won by Carl Mason – the most successful player in the history of the Senior Tour.
Tommy Horton, an early pioneer of the Senior Tour, captured the 1972 Piccadilly Medal at Hillside, while Neil Coles, the long-standing Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PGA European Tour, claimed the Benson and Hedges Match Play there in 1973.
Tony Jacklin, a two-time Major Champion and winning Ryder Cup Captain, won the 1982 PGA Championship at Hillside, which has been a regular venue for Open Championship Qualifying down the years.
Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club is a true championship links course, with first class facilities to match, set amongst the dunes of another of James Braid’s great creations. ‘S&A’ (as it is widely and affectionately known), was founded in 1906 and hosted two Ryder Cup matches in 1933 and 1937 and a number of other prestigious championships including The Women’s British Open and The Amateur Championship. It has been used as a final qualifying course for The Open Championship in the past and remains one of the most popular courses along that stretch of coastline.
With the sea breeze, the course is a magnificent test of golf, the profusion of heather and gorse combining to provide a challenging and immensely enjoyable experience.
Formby, founded in 1884, differs from its neighbours in that it is surrounded by pine trees. While the initial nine holes constructed for local businessmen, was laid out on the local warren, it was Willie Park who extended the course to 18 holes and into the sand hills.
James Braid made changes to the final holes to increase the length of the course and Harry S Colt improved a number of holes around the greens. Further minor changes were introduced by Messrs Hawtree & Taylor in 1933.
The most recent changes to the course were made by Donald Steel of Frank Pennick & Partners when the eighth and ninth holes were lost to coastal erosion in the 1970s. The new course was used first for the Amateur Championship of 1984 when José Maria Olazábal beat Colin Montgomerie in the final.
In recent years new back tees and new bunkering have been added and with the creation of a practice ground in the middle of the course, Formby can now provide a modern challenge as it proved for a fourth Amateur Championship in 2009 won by Matteo Manassero and the Curtis Cup match of 2004 between the amateur women of the United States and Great Britain and Ireland.
Over 300 Senior golfers will participate in the qualifying competition on Monday, 22 July, vying for approximately 25-30 spots in the final field from Thursday, 25 July to Sunday, 28 July.
Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, Executive Director – Championships at The R&A, said: “The development of the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex has followed the pattern established by The Open, whereby qualifying rounds precede the main event and create a truly Open competition where anyone at the top of his game can win this great championship.
“This is the first time the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex has been held in Southport and we anticipate substantial local support from the public in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton for the return to Royal Birkdale of many of the game’s great champions.”
Tickets for the 2013 Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex are available now. Season tickets bought by 31 December can be purchased for £60 – a significant saving of £20 on the gate price, making it an ideal festive gift for family or friends.
One day tickets purchased by 31 December cost £20, a saving of £10 on the gate price, while practice day tickets are also available at the reduced price of £10. Under 16s are admitted free when accompanied by an adult and parking is also free.
Tickets can be bought online via www.senioropengolf.com or by calling +44 (0)800 0232557. Details of hospitality packages are also available.