SOUTHEND’S Matthew Southgate will be living the dream tomorrow when he tees off at his first Open Championship – and he will have two of his old school friends on hand to share it with.

Southgate (inset) has been best friends with David Tintori and Josh McColl since their time at St Thomas More High School when they bonded over their love for golf.

And that friendship will continue tomorrow on the biggest stage in golf as Tintori is now Southgate’s coach and McColl his caddie.

“I feel like I’ve got the best team around me,” says Southgate, a member of Thorpe Hall Golf Club.

“Josh is a great caddie. He’s been with me for some of my best results on the European Tour. He’s earned this week.

“If I play well, he understands me and will let me play. If I don’t perform we’ll have a great time and we’ll remember it for the rest of our lives.”

Southgate has been to The Open with his friends before, but he has always been the wrong side of the rope.

In 1999, he travelled to Carnoustie with Tintori, his father Ian and sister Anna.

The then ten-year- old Southgate was given advice by Sergio Garcia and ended the trip playing the 18th hole on the Monday after the tournament ended, making a bogey five in front of the empty grandstands.

This year he will be inside the ropes all week. And the grandstands will be packed.

“I met Dave in the school playground,” Southgate laughed ahead of his first round.

“We recognised each other from the golf club and said hello. From that moment on all we did was talk golf.”

A few years later, in 2005, Southgate travelled with McColl to The Open at St Andrews with the two boys sitting in the grandstand all day, waiting to watch Tiger Woods be crowned champion.

Now 25, Southgate’s moment to play in front of the packed galleries of this year’s Open at Royal Liverpool has arrived.

He won his place via the Final Qualifying event at Sunningdale and is confident he has the game to shine on links courses having had success in the past on seaside courses, winning events at St Andrews and Royal St George’s.

He is also a member at Carnoustie, so he knows what to expect in the coming days.

“Links golf is like a blank canvas,” Southgate said. “You feel like an artist playing it. You can play every hole differently.

I love that.”

He also knows Royal Liverpool well.

“I played the Brabazon Trophy there as an amateur and finished in the top ten. I also had an England squad team session there.

“I don’t want to walk to that first tee and be blasé. I want to be nervous. I don’t want to pretend I’m not. If it happens it will be because it’s my body telling me it matters.

“I love the Open. I love the fairytale aspect to it.”