RICHARD Lewis has set his sights on an emotional homecoming as he bids to qualify for this year’s Open Championship.

For the last few years, Lewis has dedicated the majority of his time to coaching aspiring golfers in his role as head professional at The Worcestershire, in Malvern Wells.

However, with The Open being held at Royal St George’s at Sandwich, in Kent, — the club where Lewis spent seven years as an assistant pro — the lure to dust off the spikes and play competitively again was just too strong.

He explained: “Having not played competitively for a few years, I have the desire to dust off my spikes and test myself once more as a player.

“I will be playing in local, regional and national competitions as well as trying to qualify for The Open at Royal St George’s — it would certainly be nice to go back there and play in The Open.

“To that end, I changed my entire lifestyle in August, to improve all areas of my game. I realised that although I hit the ball a good distance, the most modern approach demands more length off the tee, leaving as short an iron approach as possible to the green.

“Equipment can only take you so far. The remaining improvements must come from physical conditioning and, ultimately, clubhead speed.

“I joined the gym at The Malvern in October and have followed a carefully constructed strength and flexibility programme since then.

“This golf-specific regime was designed by one of the personal trainers at the gym and, in the short time I have been working, I have lost 9kgs in weight and four inches off my waist.”

Lewis, who finished 11th at the St Andrews Bay pro-am in August, added: “I no longer have twinges in my back or aches in my shoulders. I feel as fit as I have ever been. Getting up to do 6.30am pre-work gym sessions has been worth it.

“In conjunction with a sensible eating plan, I have found new discipline in my golfing life. The results are already noticeable in that my Flightscope has recorded an increase in clubhead speed with an iron from 86mph in October to 94mph now.

“Through being fitter, ache free and more flexible, I am now a club longer than before. My fitness will also mean that concentration will be maintained more easily, which is I think is equally as important.

“Distance is not the game in itself — I will devote as much time to the short game and to putting — as I spend in the gym and on the range hitting full shots.

“After all, there is no point hitting it further, if you still don’t hole putts.”