Mark’s mixing it with world’s best

Mark Young tees-off during a practice round at The Open Championships, in St AndrewsMark Young tees-off during a practice round at The Open Championships, in St Andrews
Mark Young tees-off during a practice round at The Open Championships, in St Andrews
Rubbing shoulders with Major winners has all been in a day’s work for Longridge golfer Mark Young this week.

The former conservatory manufacturer-turned golf professional will compete against the world’s best on Thursday when he takes part in the 144th Open Championship – which is being held at St Andrews.

The 33-year-old – who only turned pro at the end of last year after a fine amateur career – qualified for his first ever Major after topping the list of qualifiers at the Gailes Links course in Ayrshire.

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He will tee-off at 3.57pm this afternoon at the world famous Scottish course – widely regarded as the home of golf – alongside American Daniel Berger and Pelle Edberg of Sweden.

The trio will be back out on the fairway on Friday at 10.39am, where they will hope to make the final cut.

Young has been preparing for his first taste of life at the highest level by practising with some of the sport’s biggest names over the past week

At the weekend, he played a few holes with South African star Louis Oosthuizen – the last person to win The Open when it was held at St Andrews in 2010.

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And there were a couple of pictures doing the rounds on social media of Young partnering England’s Justin Rose, who won the US Masters in 2013.

On Wednesday, he was enjoying a morning fourball with Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.

“It’s felt surreal, the first few days here,” Young said.

“On Sunday, I played a few holes with Louis Oosthuizen.

“I stood on the first tee and I was a bag of nerves. I only just managed to get the club on the ball.

“Then Billy Horschel, who won more than $11 million in one day in last year’s FedEx Cup, linked up with me for the last few holes.

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“I played with US tour player John Senden on Monday and with Justin Rose on Tuesday for the first 16 holes.”

Young has never played at St Andrews before but now that he has become accustomed to the course surrounded by such exalted company, how does think he will perform.

“It’s my first time here and it hasn’t disappointed,” he said.

“As soon as I got over those initial nerves I played fine. I don’t know how I’ll feel on Thursday afternoon – it’s a bit different to what I’m used to.

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“I just want to make the cut, play four rounds and take it from there.”

With world No.1 Rory McIlroy unable to defend his title after suffering ruptured ankle ligaments, the spotlight falls on 21-year-old American Jordan Spieth, who has won the opening two Majors of the year.