Sam Bairstow: Sheffield amateur golfer rubs shoulders with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Danny Willett and Lee Westwood before The Open Championship

An amateur golfer from Sheffield is practising alongside the world's best as he prepares for the challenge of a lifetime at The Open Championship.

Sam Bairstow, from Meersbrook, is among just seven unpaid players who have earned a spot at the 149th edition of golf’s oldest tournament, which, as one of only four majors in the sport, is also one of its most prestigious competitions.

The 22-year-old, who is based at Hallowes Golf Club in Dronfield, travelled to Royal St. George’s last Thursday to begin his preparation.

Sheffield golfer Nick Poppleton swaps shifts at Iceland for The Open Championship

Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño of Spain, Sam Bairstow and Ben Hutchinson pose with The Open flag after qualifying for the 149th Open Championship (photo by Richard Martin-Roberts/R&A/R&A via Getty Images).

Since arriving in Kent, Sam has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names on the tour and enjoyed a practice round with Phil Mickelson on Sunday followed by another with Tommy Fleetwood on Monday.

A further practice round with Sheffield’s 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and Lee Westwood is planned for Wednesday.

"It’s obviously a bit surreal for him and now it’s becoming real,” said Tony Cartwright, club captain at Hallowes, who is heading down south to watch Sam when the action starts on Thursday.

"He was on the practice range on Sunday on his own then Dustin Johnson turned up next to him.

Sam Bairstow tees off on the 4th during a practice round ahead of The 149th Open at Royal St George’s Golf Club.

"Sam has played a couple of rounds with local caddies just to get to know what to do and where to go. Apparently he’s hitting it really well.”

John Oates, head professional at Hallowes, added: “These are practice rounds but it’s great experience for him.”

Sam has dedicated himself to golf on a full-time basis with a view to turning professional, having first picked up a club at the age of 12.

He broke the course record at St Annes Old Links in Lancashire with a 11-under score of 63 on his way to qualifying for the Open last month.

"We are just hoping he makes the cut,” Tony added.

"It’s going to be an experience for him, he’s been considering turning pro for the last two years but because of what’s been happening with Covid it’s been difficult.

"Maybe this will open a lot of doors for him. He’s a nice lad, he’s down to earth and he puts a lot of work in when he’s not playing tournaments. He’s down here from 7am until 7pm.

"Sam has been knocking at the door, this is massive for him.”

John also praised the character of Sam, who is a member of the England Men’s ‘A’ squad, which comprises the best amateur golfers in the country.

He said: “He’s certainly not big-headed, he takes it all in his stride. I think he will do well.

"He's certainly practised hard. To be plus six as an amateur is pretty special. He’s a quiet lad and lets his clubs do the talking.”

Having enlisted fellow Hallowes memberGeorge Ashas his caddie for The Open, Sam will have a much-needed familiar face and calming presence alongside him in front of 32,000 fans each day.

“He’s as excited as everybody else and he will get a taste for what it could be like,” said Tony.

"There’s a buzz about the club, everybody is talking about it.”

Nick Poppleton, who also came through qualifying and balances a professional career with shifts as an Iceland delivery driver, will make up the Sheffield contingent at the final major of the season along with Matt Fitzpatrick.