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Everything he wants? He's got it

When Roy Orbison warbled the line 'I drove all night to get to you, is that all right?', it must have come as a major inconvenience to the dozing object of his desires who wasn't expecting him.

 Paul McKechnie always wanted to play at the Open. Picture: PA
Paul McKechnie always wanted to play at the Open. Picture: PA

His words also provided potential for dodgy introductions to golf pieces like this. Paul McKechnie didn't quite drive all night but, here at Hoylake, this is his own 'Big O' moment. The big O in question is the Open Championship.

The 37-year-old from Glasgow is finally living the dream. In the modern era when the Open is increasingly becoming a closed shop for those lesser lights of the Royal & Ancient game, McKechnie's route through to the main event, from both regional and final qualifying, is one of those feel-good tales of triumph against the odds. The ultimate goal can still be reached. It almost wasn't, of course.

A fraught journey back from a Challenge Tour event in Belgium the night before the regional qualifier at Bruntsfield Links in Edinburgh last month nearly scuppered that dream.

"It was some trip to get to regional qualifying and I do sometimes think: "Oh, what would have happened if I hadn't made that flight?" he reflected with a shudder.

"I had been playing in Antwerp, made the ferry by about five minutes, made my flight by two minutes, drove up the road, had about five hours' sleep and then got up to drive through to regional qualifying in Edinburgh.

"You know, fate can have some funny turns. It had been a quiet start to the season for me, I started to get things going a wee bit on the Challenge Tour - and five minutes later I'm playing in the Open.

"I've been dreaming of this pretty much since I decided to be a golfer. When you're daft as a brush at 14 or 15, you watch the greats on TV and think you can do that . . . and here I am."

McKechnie, who pipped Welshman Rhys Davies to the final Open spot in a play-off during the final qualifier at Gailes Links, is enjoying something of a second coming. Over a decade ago, he made his mark by winning the PGA EuroPro Tour's order of merit and earning promotion to the Challenge Tour. That's as far as he would go but, 11 years on, the father of two is back on the second-tier of the European scene and revelling in the cut-and-thrust again. Under the watchful gaze of his coach, Alan McCloskey, McKechnie is more determined than ever to make the most of his renaissance.

"It is better the second time around; you appreciate it a wee bit more," admitted the Scot. "When you are young, you are Gunga Din or Captain Scarlet, you're untouchable, invincible. You think you're going to conquer the world by the time you're 25. This time around, I appreciate that it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. So far, it's been worth every minute."

A pre-championship amble around the links with the 1985 Open winner Sandy Lyle has helped him settle into this new environment. "Sandy doesn't bring a lot of stress and anxiety to the party," noted McKechnie.

Lyle has seen it all before. McKechnie, meanwhile, is lapping up the red carpet treatment and the general buzz. "It feels fantastic," he added. "There's a bit of naivety when you qualify, you think: "Yeah, great, I'm going to play in the Open'

"But, when you get here, it's so special. The best moment so far was my first round, walking on to the first tee. It's a wee bit claustrophobic over there and the hairs on the back of your neck just stand up.

"A stark contrast would be regional qualifying, when you're standing on the first tee after very little sleep, your heart rate is not really pumping and you think 'Jeez, give me something'. You come here, though, and the atmosphere is crackling, it's something else."

The long journey to get here sounds like it's been worth it.

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