Golf: Memories of Hoylake flood back for Denison

Danny Denison
Danny Denison
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The return of the Open Championship to Royal Liverpool Golf Club this week is bound to stir the memories for one member of the Leeds golfing alumnus.

Danny Denison was a wide-eyed 21-year-old amateur when he set foot on the burnt links of Hoylake in 2006 to contest the 135th Open.

A burgeoning talent in the unpaid ranks, he was stepping up to the biggest of leagues in a week in which Tiger Woods won the Claret Jug for a third time.

Woods was at the peak of his powers – Denison was hoping to have just a little slice for himself.

He showed the brashness of youth by putting his name alongside those of Sir Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal for the practice round, and was then overjoyed when the two-time Masters champion Olazabal honoured the commitment.

“Playing with Olazabal is something I’ll never forget,” reflects Denison, whose career peaked that week in Merseyside.

The actual tournament days did not go as well as he had hoped, the bone dry links scorched under temperatures in excess of 30 degrees proving too difficult a playing surface to tame.

Denison began badly, going out in 42, but he restored hope with an inward nine of level par as he opened with a six-over round of 78.

“I am disappointed,” said Denison at the time. “Not just for myself but for the magnificent support I had all way around from my club members.

“But the occasion and the players I was out with, cheered me up and I salvaged something from what could have been a real disaster.”

On the Friday, needing to attack the pins to have any chance of making the cut, Denison fared slightly better with a round of 76 but his 10-over-par total was never going to trouble the cut mark, nor the silver medal that as one of four amateurs in the field – and the only English apprentice – he was chasing.

Denison’s plan had been to turn professional at the end of that season, but in qualifying for the Open, the Howley Hall member was lured into the professional ranks within days of the Open, when he signed professional terms with ISM.

Denison’s career has been one of ups and downs ever since.

He nearly lost his life when the hire car he was being driven in crashed en route to a Challenge Tour event in Austria the following year.

It took two years for the leg injuries to heal and another 18 months to get back to where he had been when the crash intervened.

One year later he finally reached the European Tour, but managed only one year among the elite, 2012, and by the middle of last year, injury had struck again – this time a persistent wrist problem – that forced Denison to quit the professional game and turn his hand to teaching.

He spent nearly a year at Moor Allerton – playing the occasional round which included a course-record 58 at Roundhay – and is now back on the European Tour employed by Nike, one of the sponsors who stood by him through all the injuries, working on their Tour bus.

He is also back at Hoylake this week, fitting out the likes of Woods and Rory McIlroy – the manufacturer’s biggest clients – when they need a new grip.

It may not be as a player, but at least in a spare moment this week Denison might be able to relive his finest hour.