Celtic Manor touring professional Rhys Enoch is eyeing up the biggest week of his golfing life after qualifying for the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
Enoch won his first ever event as a pro on the Jamega Tour in 2012 but struggled to build on that achievement as he battled against the debilitating effects of first glandular fever and then chronic fatigue syndrome.
He hopes all that is about to change after teeing up the biggest opportunity of his pro career by chipping in to qualify for this week's Open at Hoylake.
Enoch will trade the second and third division tours for playing alongside the world's best golfers in the sport's oldest major championship. The 26-year-old former Wales amateur international said:
I played a practice round with Lee Westwood on Sunday and I've just come off the chipping green where Tiger Woods was about 10 yards away. It really hits home what a big deal this is and I'm really looking forward to giving it my best shot. My health is a lot better now and I feel my game is in good shape so, hopefully, this can kick-start my pro career."
Enoch was born in Cornwall to Welsh parents and chose to play his amateur international golf under the Wales flag. National coach Neil Matthews remains his golf tutor and Enoch, who now lives in Cardiff, still hones his game at the Golf Academy at Celtic Manor.
It's the perfect base for me and the facilities are fantastic with all the teaching studios and the all-weather tees and greens. I was lucky enough to get a sponsors' invite into last year's ISPS Handa Wales Open and, until now, that has been the only European Tour event I've ever played in. It was a fantastic learning experience and I hope it will stand me in good stead for another step up this week. Playing in The Open is something I've always dreamt of.
Enoch used to share that dream with his younger brother Ben - another Wales amateur international – but tragically his sibling's golfing ambitions were cut short by a fatal car crash when he was driving to compete in the Lytham Trophy at the age of 19.
Ben went to watch the last Open at Hoylake in 2006 and saw Tiger Woods hole his second shot for a famous eagle on the 14th. He came back full of it. When we were playing we would often say to each other, ‘This putt is for the Claret Jug’. And now here I am, playing at Hoylake. Ben will be a big inspiration to me this week.
While there will be many more experienced than Enoch, few will have greater access to the best local knowledge than him. His lodgings for the week are in the home of Royal Liverpool club professional John Heggarty.
I went to college at East Tennessee State University with his son Tom and he is one of my best friends. I've already learnt a lot about the course from both of them and I'm sure I'll be tapping into any more advice they can give me during the week.
Enoch tees up with established tour stars Justin Walters, of South Africa, and American Billy Hurley in the second to last group out for Thursday's opening round at 3.55pm.