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David Dixon rolls back the years with strong start at the ISPS Handa UK Championship

If you enjoyed the incredible saga of Sophia Popov’s rise from nowhere to win the AIG Women’s Open last Sunday, Englishman David Dixon’s feelgood last nine days will certainly appeal.

At 43, he might stand as the dictionary definition of a journeyman professional.

In 19 years in the paid ranks, he has been an almost annual fixture at the end of each season at the European Tour’s qualifying school. In 256 appearances on the main circuit, he had mustered just one top-three finish, which came when he won the 2008 Saint-Omer Open in France.

In four events before lockdown, Dixon won a shade less than £1,000. With a lowly card from last year’s school, he didn’t get into the field for the first four events on the UK swing following the resumption, so imagine his relief to get a last-minute spot into the fifth, the Wales Open at Celtic Manor last week.

It was the moment that fate took a rather more kindly turn, Dixon seizing his opportunity to finish tied third. It earned him a place in the field for the ISPS Handa UK Championship at The Belfry, where the good news continued with an opening round of 68 on Thursday that left him four shots behind the leader, South African Justin Harding, but only one stroke adrift of the group in second place.

Dixon couldn’t help but think back to gentler days in 2003 when he was still new to the pro game following a glittering amateur career.

He opened with a 66 at The Belfry then to lead after the first round, going on to notch his first top-10 finish on tour.

‘I just find the place quite inspiring, it’s a great course with such a rich history,’ said the Somerset man, of the four-time Ryder Cup venue.

‘It was great to finish the round bogey-free. I just felt very comfortable, keeping the ball in play and building on last week. Simply getting into that event at the last minute was a massive positive.’

Dixon is benefiting from tuition from trainee assistant pro Alex Clapp at his home course Enmore Park in Bridgewater.

‘He’s come up with some modern swing moves for this old body of mine and it feels like it’s paying off,’ he said.

This is the last event of the summer UK swing and the weather duly underlined why the following three weeks will be spent in Spain and Portugal. The rain from noon was relentless, causing a lengthy disruption for afternoon starters.

Alongside Dixon on 68 is former US Open and US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer, who was inspired by the success of fellow German Popov. He said: ‘When you think that she was considering quitting tournament golf just 12 months ago, it just shows that you should never give up on your dreams.’

Dixon would no doubt agree.

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