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Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Tuesday, 14 July 2009 20:49 UK

Kavanagh keen to take Open chance

The 138th Open, Turnberry
Date: 16-19 July
Coverage: Live TV coverage on BBC Two, Online and the Red Button, live on Radio 5 Live and text commentary online on all four days

By Ged Scott
BBC Sport at Turnberry

Jeremy Kavanagh
Kavanagh booked his place at Turnberry in South Africa

This time a year ago, Buckinghamshire's Jeremy Kavanagh was so disillusioned with his bid to make it as a professional golfer that he was working as a builder's labourer.

But, on Tuesday, Kavanagh played a round of golf in the illustrious company of Tom Watson and Greg Norman at Turnberry.

And, on Thursday, the Watford-born 29-year-old will play in his first Open Championship around the Ailsa Course hoping to take his chance of fame.

Kavanagh, from Stoke Park, had to go all the way to South Africa to book his place at International Final Qualifying in January.

But being away from home trying his luck on the African Tour had to be an improvement on where he was this time last year.

"I'd run out of resources," he told BBC Sport.

And he was working for his brother's building firm, as he puts it: "Digging ditches and knocking down chimney breasts."

Now, having come through the African section of International Final Qualifying, he recognises that this is his big chance to put down his shovel and pick up his putter, swap his sledgehammer for his best driver and try to start climbing the ladder.

"I'm looking forward to doing something special there," he said.

That may already have happened for Kavanagh, simply by playing with Watson, the first winner of a Turnberry Open in 1977, and Norman, who claimed his first victory here in 1986.

But it took courage even to think of approaching those two old stagers for a round. And, in any case, it was not Norman's storm-ridden win of 1986 that Kavanagh remembers but his second Open victory, at Royal St George's in 1993.

I thought I was going to have to go to a play-off, so when I found I was in, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry

Jeremy Kavanagh

"It was the first time I'd been to an Open when Greg Norman won at Sandwich," he said. "And when I saw him and Tom Watson were paired to play together, I just put my name down to join them."

That is the sort of confident touch it takes to turn golfing also-rans into greats. Although he did admit to a few nerves when it came to actually teeing off.

"Tom was cracking a lot of jokes," he said. "I think that was to help calm me down.

"But," he added with a grin, "I was there to pick their brains."

In any case, when it comes to showing the capacity needed to perform when it matters under pressure, he has already proved that in the manner of his qualification in January.

Already over there playing the South African Tour - he only made the cut once in five attempts - overnight leader Kavanagh needed to par the last hole at Royal Durban to avoid being forced into a play-off in the two-round event.

But he did not know that, thinking he needed to make par just to make the play-off.

"They had made a mistake with the scoreboards and I thought I was going to have to go to a play-off, so when I found I was in, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry," he said.

The key thing is he made that par. He has already made two new golfing friends at Turnberry. And he hopes to have the game to make a few more this week.

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