Sacrifices finally pay dividends as Hanson hits Open

There are days when Chris Hanson looks at his reflection in the mirror and thinks it is high time he got himself a real job.

Golfer Chris Hanson who has qualified for the Open, pictured at Woodsome Hall Golf Club, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).
Golfer Chris Hanson who has qualified for the Open, pictured at Woodsome Hall Golf Club, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

That, at 28, he should pack away the golf clubs, stop chasing the dream and start earning a steady income to provide for his wife and their young child.

But today is not that day, nor will it be over the next four days –or with any luck – the next six.

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For Hanson – a humble Huddersfield professional who plays out of Woodsome Hall – is at Royal Liverpool this week, rubbing shoulders with the great and good of world golf.

Golfer Chris Hanson who has qualified for the Open, pictured at Woodsome Hall Golf Club, Fenay Bridge, Huddersfield. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe).

His appearance at the Open Championship is one that makes all the hardship, all the blank pay days, all the sacrifices he and his family have made, worthwhile.

For a journeyman on the Challenge Tour, as he describes himself in those desperate days of soul-searching, this is his golden opportunity to not only make a small impact on the world of golf but to justify all the travelling and toiling that have characterised the last eight years.

“There’s not many people who do jobs where you don’t get paid,” says Hanson, who has come home from six tournaments this year without a cheque to cash.

“You miss cuts halfway around the world and can’t get home for three days and it’s costing you 1,000 euros to be there and it’s pretty horrible.

“Life on the Challenge Tour is hard. It has its unbelievable moments where you see some great places and play some great courses, but I don’t know many golfers at this level that make a living.

“It’s just a case of getting by and that’s tough on your family. My family have made a lot of sacrifices. I don’t bring in a very good income at all; my wife works and we have a child but we manage to get by and with the sacrifices we make, hopefully, one day I’ll press on and get a card and earn a decent living.

“There’s not many 28-year-olds who aren’t set in a career. I’m classed as a journeyman – a journeyman on the Challenge Tour, not even the main tour.

“How long will I give it? I get asked this question a lot. It’s tough because as long as you’re improving and you’re getting better, you don’t want to pack in, and as long as you can financially keep playing and keep supporting your family you want to keep playing.

“The average age on Tour might be 33 now and people aren’t winning until they’re in their 30s. It’s only one good week that can change your life, so when do you give in?

“I don’t know, but I’m also not going to lie. I think about it at some point every year because you have your ups and downs. But because of the last few weeks, I never think I’m going to pack in.”

The dream Hanson is chasing was given fresh impetus by his qualification for the Open, which entailed finishing in the top three at Hillside at the start of July.

He used that springboard to claim a third-place finish on the Challenge Tour in Germany last week, a result that earned him a cheque for 10,300 euros (£8,122), his biggest pay day in three years on the continent’s second tier.

To put into context the opportunity he has in front of him at Hoylake this week, making the cut will yield £12,400.

It is not a life-changing sum, but one that might convince him the next time he looks in the mirror that he does at least have a future in the sport.

“Weeks like last week in Germany, and the one before with the qualifying, make you realise you’re not far away and that the gap to the top is not as big as you think,” adds Hanson, who is once again taking pride in the reflection staring back at him.

He arrived at Hillside like every one of the 70-plus golfers chasing an Open spot, not thinking much of his chances.

With only three places up for grabs, the odds of qualifying are so slim that if a player begins the 36-hole qualifier with a poor round they often withdraw.

Hanson gave himself a chance with a 69, before matching that in the second round and prevailing in a four-man play-off for one of three coveted spots at Hoylake.

“I honestly don’t think I did consider qualifying,” he says.

“I didn’t even look at the leaderboard after 18 holes, I just went out again and tried to play the same. I knew from three years ago that five under got in the play-off so I knew I was in a position.

“You never intend on winning it outright, you always hope for a play-off.”

At Royal Liverpool this week he expects a crowd of 200 to follow him over the first two days, including friends, family and Woodsome Hall members.

He played the course last Wednesday, when only the green grandstands and yellow scoreboards marked it out as the site of this week’s Open.

His score that day? “No comment,” he says with a smile. “It was pretty brutal.”

Not that Hanson intends to shy away from the challenge come Thursday when the biggest opportunity of his life begins.

“This might be the only Open I play or it might be the first of 10 that I play,” he adds. “I’m going to try and love every minute of it and get everything out of the experience that I possibly can.

“This is the best form I’ve had for a while so why not think that I can go there and compete and put a good performance in?”