RAYLEIGH’S Mark Hooper is still pinching himself after his memorable showing at the PGA Championships at Wentworth.

The 30-year-old local lad fired three successive rounds of one-under par before scoring three-over par in the final 18 holes to end the event all square in 38th place.

And to cap it all off the former FitzWimarc School pupil played the final round alongside former US Open champion and Ryder Cup star Justin Rose.

“Justin is someone I’ve looked up to throughout my career so to play the final round with him and for him to be such a top guy as well capped off a brilliant few days for me,” said Hooper.

“I loved every second of it and was even up in the top five at one stage before I somehow managed to lose my ball with a shot 200 people couldn’t find.

“That gave me an eight and it was hard to get back with the leaders after that but it was still an unbelievable experience for me.”

Hooper battled through the qualifying rounds to take his place at Wentworth.

And he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.

“I thought this could be a once in a lifetime chance and I didn’t want to just let it slip,” said Hooper.

“Of course I was nervous and leading up to it I was worried about how I might feel about it all.

“But just before it started there was a funeral for my friend’s mum who sadly passed away.

“Everyone wore purple to it and that’s why I also wore purple on the opening day.

“It reminded me that golf is for fun and put everything in perspective really so I made sure I enjoyed it and thankfully it all went well for me.”

Hooper, who also coaches at the Rayleigh Club, now hopes to be invited to other top events to enable to him to build on what was a very promising performance at Wentworth.

Hooper was presented with a silver plate for being the leading PGA professional at the PGA Championships.

And, following his success, he is now also looking for corporate sponsorship to help him shine on a more regular basis.

For further details you can email him on mark@hoopergolf.co.uk.