Ben Hutchinson: From stacking shelves at Morrisons to competing at The Open for Howley Hall pro

Ben Hutchinson worked in Morrisons last year to help fund his first year as a golfer on Europe’s professional satellite tours.

OPEN DATE: Howley Hall golfer Ben Hutchinson has qualified for this year's Open at Royal St George's. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
OPEN DATE: Howley Hall golfer Ben Hutchinson has qualified for this year's Open at Royal St George's. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

Next week he tees off alongside Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka at the Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Kent; for the briefest of moments at least, an equal to some of golf’s biggest names.

Such is the life of a golfer trying to make his way: one minute the harsh reality of life on professional sport’s breadline, the next, a reminder of why the sacrifices are all worthwhile in the end.

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Leeds lad Hutchinson, who turned 26 last week, earned his place in the 156-man field for next week’s Open via final qualifying last Tuesday.

JOB DONE: Leeds' Ben Hutchinson poses with The Open flag after qualifying for the 149th Open Championship at St Annes Old Links Golf Club. Picture: Richard Martin-Roberts/Getty Images.

Hutchinson was one of nearly 270 golfers who arrived at four different courses throughout England playing for just 12 spots in the field.

Players of all standards make it through to final qualifying; from former and present European Tour players to former major champions; budding amateurs to fledgling professionals.

“I’ve been to final qualifying the last four or five years; you never really believe you can do it, you just hope you can bring your best golf for 36 holes,” says Hutchinson, who needed to finish in the top three after playing 36 holes in one day at St Annes Old Links.

“Luckily I did. The first 18 holes I played nicely and shot six under but there were a lot of good scores, a couple of guys hit eight under.

HITTING FORM: Leeds golfer Ben Hutchinson. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

“I was on the putting green with a few of the other lads thinking what would we need, and I was thinking it’s probably 12 under I’ll need to get to.

“I started the second round pretty slowly, parred the first five but then it all picked up: I eagled the sixth and that’s when it all started.”

With such an opportunity at stake, it was inevitable that nerves would kick in, but Hutchinson managed to stay in control of his emotions, and therefore his game.

“I had a good finish, birdied the last three,” he says. “I kept checking the leaderboard to see where I was and when I finished there were still a few groups to finish but I was pretty much there.

Ben Hutchinson's Howley Hall clubmate Marcus Armitage, pictured above, will also be at Royal St George's for next week's Open. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

“The last hole it hit me, though. Luckily it was a par five and I hit a nice drive so I knew I was in a pretty comfortable position after that.

“It’s funny because England were playing at 5pm against Germany and I was wanting to get in to watch them. That helped take my mind off it a little.”

Cue the double celebrations of England beating Germany in the second round of the European Championship and Hutchinson booking his place in the Open.

“It’s a bit surreal, I don’t think it will sink in until I get there,” Hutchinson said earlier this week, ahead of his anticipated arrival at St George’s tomorrow.

“It’s a bit different to preparing for a normal tournament. I’ve been trying to find a caddie, the Covid protocols are different, all my family are wanting to come so that’s changed things.

“I’m heading down Sunday, I’ll get to the golf club Monday and start my preparations.”

Hutchinson’s journey to here is an eventful one.

He played football and cricket in his youth but picked up golf at Howley Hall Golf Club in Morley at the age of 10.

“I had a good group of friends up there who’d just get dropped off after school or in the school holidays and played golf,” he says.

After completing his A-levels, Hutchinson decided to become a full-time amateur golfer, a life he was happy to lead for a good six years, even if it did mean he needed the support of family members and a couple of part-time jobs to see him through.

“It probably costs about £7,000-£8,000 a year to exist on the amateur scene,” he says. “My dad would come with me and help pay. Without my mum and dad it wouldn’t have happened.

“I used to work in winter full-time, I worked at Next.

“Then when Covid hit I worked at Morrisons I also work in the club shop at Howley.”

The move from Next to Morrisons coincided with the switch from the amateur ranks to the paid game.

After six years, Hutchinson was ready to start making money out of the game he loved playing.

“I just thought it was time to give it go,” says Hutchinson, who represented England in tournaments around the world in the latter staged of his time as an amateur.

“I’d done well at Tour School in back-to-back years, unfortunately missed the cut to get on the European Tour.

“But I’d done it for so long I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Despite Covid impacting his first year, Hutchinson was able to get a few tournaments under his belt, either on the EuroPro Tour or closer to home on the 2020protour.

As any golfer of that level will tell you, when your game clicks it’s important to make hay while the sun shines, and Hutchinson certainly did that.

“Last week was probably my best golfing week,” he reflects.

“I qualified for the Open on the Tuesday and then finished tied-second on the EuroPro Tour.

“I’ve been playing nicely, I’m trending in the right direction. I was hoping it would all click into place and fortunately it did at the right time.”

So now to St George’s as one of two men to represent Morley’s Howley Hall.

Marcus Armitage, a long-standing member of the club, is a few years ahead of Hutchinson on his golfing journey, and will also play in the Open this week having earned a ticket to St George’s – and also last month’s US Open at Torrey Pines – by claiming his first win on the European Tour at the recent Porsche European Open in Germany.

“I know Marcus really well and I’ll probably try and play a practice round with him,” says Hutchinson.

“Last year I caddied for him for 10 events on the main tour so I did learn a lot from him through that.

“So we speak quite a lot and I can up pick up quite a bit off him.

“But otherwise I’m not that fussed about playing with any of the big boys on the practice rounds.

“I’ll just do my thing. I don’t do a great deal, I like to learn the course and stay relaxed. I’ll play nine holes each day.

“I’m just going out there to enjoy it, it’s going to be such a different experience to what I’m used to, playing in front of 35,000 fans each day.

“Hopefully I get a good draw on the Thursday and Friday. If I make the cut it will be awesome, but if I don’t it will still have been a good week.”

Beyond that, Hutchinson wants to make it onto the European Tour, either through the traditional route of Tour School or finishing high up the EuroPro Tour and the Challenge Tour, or via satellite tours either in Asia, America and Canada, all of which are options open to him.

A good week this week in the game’s oldest major will certainly help.

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