The 23 year old not only played in The 141st Open Championship after pre-qualifying for the year’s third Major, but he also made the cut before finishing tied 60th alongside World Number Three McIlroy at Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club.This week, he returns to his home county of Essex and Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa, near Colchester, in search of a good result which could launch his Challenge Tour career and he is thoroughly looking forward to it.
“I don’t quite think the crowds will be as big as they were last year but I'm just looking forward to building on the promise I showed last week,” said the former Walker Cup player.“It should be a good week. It’s nice to be coming back here to a course near home. Hopefully the weather will stay nice. The course is in good shape so I'm looking forward to it.”
It might not quite hold the prestige of The Open Championship, but there is a strong field at the English Challenge this week and Whitnell believes it could provide the break he needs.
“It was a nice step for me to make the cut at the Open but I knew when I qualified that if I played anywhere near my best golf I would be able to at least make the cut,” he said. “It was a bit disappointing on the final day but I’ll only take positives because there were a lot of good players and Major winners that missed the cut.“It was quite weird (mixing with the likes of Tiger Woods) but they’re only human. When I grew up I was thinking they were super-human but at the end of the day they’re only the same as me. To me it was just about soaking in the experience and just enjoying it. I laughed my way around the golf course and I played some half-decent golf which was nice.
“I'm just looking for a break and when I get a break I’ll take it so hopefully that can happen this week and making the cut last week and showing a bit of promise might get me some more chances.“I’ll just go out this week and play my game. I'm looking forward to just going out and giving it my best shot so we’ll see what happens.
“All you need is one good week and then you get an opportunity and take it and a few weeks down the line you could be in a completely different scenario.”Nick Dougherty, a three-time European Tour winner, is also amongst the players in the field at the €160,000 event this week, as are local Essex players Daniel Brooks and Matthew Southgate and Challenge Tour Rankings leader Gary Lockerbie.