GOLF: Spalding Springbok Darryn set for Open

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Darryn Lloyd, a 23-year-old South African based in Spalding, achieves a lifetime ambition in July when he competes in the Open Golf Championship at Muirfield.

Durban-born Lloyd, who plays on both the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and EuroPro Tour in the UK and Ireland, earned his spot through the 36-hole Africa International Qualifying event at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington’s East Course earlier in the year.

He has been attached to Toft Hotel golf course, near Bourne, since emigrating to Lincolnshire as a 15-year-old and returns to complete his practice here next week after a third place in Swaziland, 21st in Zimbabwe and two second places in the Big Easy Development Tour where he leads the order of merit.

He said: “Growing up in South Africa, The Open was one of the majors I wanted to play and I decided that once I got my handicap low enough I could take a shot at it. I missed it a couple times by a shot – once in Africa qualifying and once in the UK – so to make it this time was a great relief.

“I’ve already been up to Muirfield to play a practice round, with my girlfriend Hannah steering my trolley. It’s just as great a course, even in April, as they said it would be.

“It was something I’d always dreamt about,” said Darryn, who finished third in the Open qualifier thanks to a birdie at the final hole.

He recalled: “I started my final round with an eagle at the first hole and notched up four birdies and four bogeys before birdieing the last to avoid a play-off.”

So how did his career start?

“My mother worked for an investment company and organised a team building event at a local golf range in Durban. I went along as a 10-year-old and immediately enjoyed it.

“I got my own clubs and at 14 wanted to play more seriously. My handicap started to come down and when we emigrated in 2004 I soon got to four handicap, aged 15,” said Darryn who played in several major amateur events but decided his goal was to turn pro, which he did aged 18 with a handicap of plus one.

“My amateur record wasn’t anything to write home about; I was not as interested in the amateur side as perhaps I should have been; I just wanted to turn pro.”

His time is now split jointly between South Africa, where he first claimed his pro playing rights in 2009, playing alongside major champions, Retief Goosen, Charl Schwartzel and Luis Oosthuizen and the minor pro events in Europe.

“I led a couple of Sunshine tournaments going into the last day but wasn’t able to capitalise but I’m gaining valuable experience and my Open appearance can only be a big help,” he says.

“My ambition is to be a worldwide golfer and the Open is a great opportunity and a great place to start.”