Ryan McCarthy is excited for what could be the best week of his life.
The 27-year-old golfer – ranked 1,357th in the world – will be one of 11 Australians in action at this week’s British Open, pitting him against the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
The Tasmanian’s qualification for the event was a surprise – he won a dramatic four-man playoff for the final qualifying spot in Scotland earlier this month – but it is a deserved reward for his hard work.
McCarthy, who admits he has “fully run out of money a few times” on his golfing journey, turned professional in 2012 but has never played at a major tournament before.
“I’m really proud of myself,” McCarthy told The New Daily. “I didn’t really think it was possible, deep down.”
McCarthy’s career was summed up by the two-round qualifying event at Gailes Links Golf Course.
He had to fight and scrap – but he got there.
McCarthy teed off at 7am [local time], when it was “already raining sideways”, completing one round of 18 holes, before he had “half an hour to grab something to eat and change my socks”.
He had to do it again, and said he was “level through 11 when the rain started to stop.”
“I knew I needed to make three or four birdies in the last six holes [to qualify],” he said.
It was a tough task, but McCarthy birdied 13 and 14, made a couple of pars and then missed a 30-foot birdie putt on 17.
“On 18, I had another putt of maybe a bit over 30 feet,” he said.
“I knew I had to hole it to give myself any sort of chance of making the top three and I’ll be damned if I didn’t bang it straight into the back of the cup.”
That was at 3.30pm – and the final group didn’t finish until 8pm.
All of McCarthy’s rivals missed birdie putts on the first playoff hole, at 8.40pm, leaving him with an eight-foot putt to seal a spot at The Open.
“I just had this moment of clarity over it,” he said.
“It was just outside right edge, lined it up, rolled it end over end, and in it went.”
Royal Birkdale, the scene of this week’s Open, is a long way from McCarthy’s early days playing a range of sports around his home town of Burnie.
He only started focusing on golf at 16, after a shoulder reconstruction, and although he had further shoulder setbacks to come, he turned professional in October 2012.
His full Asian Tour card followed, before he played events on the PGA Tour China circuit in 2014.
Two years on the Latin American Tour followed as McCarthy, financially, did it tough.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life … [but] there’s just not enough money. You spend what you make,” he said.
“I’ve fully run out of money a few times, and every time I do run out of money, I seem to do well the next week. It’s sort of that survival instinct, I guess.”
Now based in Barcelona for the European Tour, McCarthy is starting to make some progress.
“This year, I’ve been playing some of the main Tour events and competing well and they’re just massive financial gain weeks,” he said.
“They’re big opportunities and some people go to water but I’ve always enjoyed the big stage and it’s one of the reasons I want to play golf.”
There is no bigger stage than this week’s 146th Open Championship.
“It’s the biggest event in golf for everyone, so everyone’s nervous and everyone wants to do well,” he said.