This Friday sees the first round of the prestigious Lytham Trophy at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club. The tournament provides an opportunity to watch some of the world's best amateur golfers in action.
A field of 144 elite golfers will tee it up on Friday and complete 36 holes strokeplay over two days, before the top 40 players and those tied for 40th place will go on to contest a further 36 holes on Sunday over the famous Royal Lytham & St Annes links.
The tournament is one of the most significant on the amateur schedule and it's classed as a "Category A" event on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. As such, the competition attracts an extremely strong, international field.
This year's entry contains players from all across Europe and as far afield as the USA and Brazil. The lowest handicap on the start sheet belongs to France's Adrien Saddier who plays off an impressive +6. He sits 14th on the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The tournament committee at Royal Lytham used, this year, a system considering both handicap and World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) to determine which entrants were granted one of the 144 starts in the tournament. Each entrant was ranked according to both their handicap and their place on the WAGR. The 144 with the lowest aggregate gained a place.
Matthew Fitzpatrick of The Hallamshire Golf Club is the top-ranked home player in the field. The teenager, who plays off +4, won the 2012 Boys' Amateur Championship and he's currently 12th on the WAGR.
The story of the Lytham Trophy began in the early 1960s when a group of members spotted there was a gap in the golfing calendar for a 72-hole scratch competition in the North of England.
The status of the event was secured from the outset, not just by the quality of the host course, but also by the inaugural winners in 1965, Sir Michael Bonallack and Clive Clark. The great amateur and future European Tour player tied on a four-round total of 295 to share the Trophy.
Since its inception, the Lytham Trophy has been won by many legends of the amateur game, and a number who have gone on to enjoy professional success. Michael King, Peter McEvoy, Roger Chapman, Paul Broadhurst, Gary Evans and Stephen Gallacher have all taken the title.
One of the most exciting tournaments came in 1981 when Roger Chapman beat Ronan Rafferty in extra holes. The pair saw off N. Mitchell over a, designated, five hole playoff but they were tied on 19 strokes. So they returned to the par-3 1st where Chapman's tee-shot ended just inches from the cup.
Last year, Daan Huizing of the Netherlands produced four superb rounds to finish on a seven-under-par total, a full 11 shots clear of the field.
Although surrounded by urbanisation, and some distance from the sea, Lytham is a true links, famous for its punishing pot bunkers and magnetic swathes of gorse.
Originally designed by the club's first professional George Lowe, the course has changed little since Harry Colt was employed to oversee alterations to the layout in 1919. The routing has stood the test of time and consistently been proved to deliver one of the finest tests of golf in the British Isles. The course was ranked number seven in Golf Monthly's last top-100 listing.
Lytham is a course where accuracy is key, and placement from the tee essential. When the wind blows from the Irish Sea, the examination can be formidable. The run for home is particularly challenging and, as Adam Scott knows all too well, there can often be little, or no, respite until the final putt drops in front of the famous redbrick clubhouse.
So, if you like the idea of strolling alongside the fairways of one of the UK's finest links courses while watching many of the world's best young golfers displaying their power and skill, Royal Lytham is the place for you this weekend. The first match goes out at 7.30am on Friday with the last time 3.30pm. The same applies on Saturday and tee times for Sunday will be posted on the Royal Lytham website on Saturday night.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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