CHAMPION Liam Ball is determined to retain his Bolton Golf Association title at Breightmet next week.

But the Old Links man knows he will face a tough challenge from an impressive field.

The 21-year-old, who beat the more experienced Mark Latham, of Regent Park, 6&4 in last year’s final, lines up alongside an array of talent in the 36-hole qualifying round on Saturday.

“I have not played Breightmet that much but when I have I really enjoyed it, “ said Ball, pictured below, who began his career at Westhoughton before winning the title representing Chorley and then moving to Old Links.

“It suits me as it is long with some interesting holes, but anyone can win it on the day. I just have to try my hardest to qualify.

“I feel good about my game and will put in a lot of practice this week and just hope I can string it all together on Saturday.”

Ball believes the strongest chalenge for his title will come from Gareth Hastie, Andy Palmer and Andy Runciman, all three former champions.

Palmer, the 2008 champion, is in the form of his life as he proved last week when the Chorley golfer smashed his home club’s course record. Palmer went round in an astonishing 63 to beat Tom Stuart’s two-year record score of 64.

“I didn’t do too well in the Lancashire Championships but I was pleased with my form last week and hope to repeat that at Breightmet,” said Palmer.

“Of course, getting to those eight qualifying places is the difficult part and then we will see how it goes from there.

“I have not played at Breightmet since it went to 18 holes but I will have a couple of practice sessions before Saturday.”

Palmer, aged 22, graduated from college last year and is now paying golf full time.

He plays off plus two and still harbours ambitions of becoming a tour pro.

Breightmet, who are hosting the championship for the first time since moving to 18 holes to coincide with their centenary, have 11 members in the field of 82 and high hopes of making a big impact.

Stalwarts Neil Woolfrey and Warren Laverty can never be discounted, while Nigel Hunter and young guns Robert Ormrod and Alex Jones, are ones to watch.

Ricky Tiano, the club champion and winner of the recent captain’s prize, will also be looking to add to his trophy cabinet.

Glynn Evans, BGA secretary and lifelong member at Breightmet said: “We are very excited at hosting the tournament.

“It is something we looked at when we went to an 18-hole course in 2005.

“Last year Westhoughton hosted it for the first time and we hope to have an equally successful championship.

“It is a chance to get people to see the course and I feel it is good for golf.

“The course has a reputation for being long but it has had excellent reports from both Lancashire and the English Schools after they held events there.”

The matchplay quarter-finals will be held on Tuesday, with the semifinals on Wednesday and the final the following day.