ANDREW GRIFFIN reports on Monday’s Regional Open Qualifiers which were held across the UK, including five in the South of England
ENGLAND’S top two in-from amateurs came through the Regional Open Qualifying after 13 clubs hosted the first steps on the road to The 148th Open for many club professionals and leading amateurs.
St Andrews Links Trophy winner Jake Burnage, from Saunton, headed the leaderboard at Minchinhampton as the England international fired a superb seven-under par 65 to top the list of 13 qualifiers.
Burnage, who has high hopes of making the Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup team to face America at Hoylake, in September, had to be at his best to hold off the challenge of Evesham’s Oliver Farrell, with Exeter’s James Reed, who won the Clifford Burden Trophy for most points at South West Week, at Parkstone GC last week, one of four players to card a 67.
Remarkably Farrell had driven from Ascot where just 24 hours earlier he had become the first Worcestershire player to land the prestigious Berkshire Trophy at the famous Ascot club – sharing that title with The Kendleshire’s Haider Hussain.
Fellow Worcestershire golfer Luke Rodgers – who played for his county in the Midlands Qualfiier for the English County Finals at Chesterfield, on Saturday, took the last qualifying spot after coming through a seven-man play-off with Burnham & Berrow’s Philip White, who knocked out Sky Sports golf commentator John E Morgan, who had to settle for 11th reserve.
Rotherham’s Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Schmidt also played – and won – the day before he teed it up in Regional Qualifying.
The record-breaking 16-year-old returned to Alwoodley – scene of his very impressive five-shot Brabazon victory fresh from claiming the Sir Henry Cooper Masters at Nizels G&CC on Sunday.
With no question marks over his stamina, Schmidt, who hails from the same golf club as Masters winner Danny Willett, shot a three-under par 68 to head the 10 qualifiers.
Wakefield’s Daniel Bradbury and Howley Hall’s England international Ben Hutchinson and fellow Yorkshireman Josh Morton, from Huddersfield, were the three other amateurs to make it through the first stage.
Bradbury carded a 70 but Morton had to come through a seven-man play-off for the last five spots, including Rockliffe Hall’s former England international Andrew Wilson, who turned pro last year.
Kent’s Alfie Plant, who earned a spot in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, after winning the European Amateur two years ago this week at Walton Heath, got some reward for his decision to travel to the Leeds course where the Sundridge Park member played the 2015 English Amateur Championship, by taking a share of third place.
One of the lowest scoring events was at Surrey’s Burhill where three players tied on seven-under after shooting 65 on the New Course, which member Paul Casey officially opened in the summer of 2001.
St George’s Hill’s Angus Flanagan, a student at the Unversity of Minnesota was the leading amateur, matching the efforts of Tyrrells Woods’ Gary King, who won on the European Challenge Tour in 2016, and Army GC’s Sam Robertshawe, winner of the EuroPro’s 2017 Irish Masters.
Royal Wimbledon’s 2017 Scottish Amateur finalist Ryan Lumsden will not be daunted by the chance to earn a spot at Royal Portrush, after qualifying for the US Open at Shinnecock last year – he represented Scotland in last year’s Eisenhower Trophy at the World Amateur Team Championship, in Ireland.
Lumsden goes to the same Northwestern University in Chicago where Luke Donald was crowned NCAA champion 20 years ago, and took fourth place at Burhill with a 67.
The Surrey player was a Byron Nelson Award winner earlier this year after strong performances in the Big Ten Conference, including a win at the Marquette Intercollegiate.
Five players took part in a play-off for four spots including Chelmsford’s Curtis Knipes, who played on the MENA Tour in the Middle East as an amateur earlier this year.
The play-off loser – RAC club’s Maxim French – had to settle for the eighth reserve spot.
Stowmarket club pro Sam Forgan took top spot at Frilford Heath, a regular stop for the European and EuroPro Tours’ Qualifying Schools, thanks to a five-under 67 on the Red Course.
He denied Brocket Hall EuroPro players Tom Shadbolt and Mark Laskey who shot 68s – one better than Stoke Park’s John Gough the older brother of Walker Cup hopeful Conor, who skipped Open Qualifying because of exams.
Frilford member Olly Huggins flew the flag for the hosts alongside the club’s assistant pro Robert Harrhy who both shot 70s to take a share of eighth to progress to Final Qualifying.
Another England international with Walker Cup dreams – Thomas Plumb, from Yeovil, who won the South West Amateur Championship last week at Parkstone GC – also made it through, avoiding the five-man play-off for the last two places.
Surrey’s Zane Scotland, who famously became the youngest player to ever qualify for the Open at Carnoustie, 20 years ago, missed the play-off by a shot, while Hampshire’s 2017 Amateur Champion Harry Ellis, who played in the Open at Birkdale with US Open Champion Gary Woodlands, was a further shot back after a 73.
The 150 players who made it through Regional Qualifying – including 50 amateurs – will head to one of four venues on Tuesday, July 2, when 12 spots in the 148th Open Championship will be up for grabs.
The venues are Sandwich’s Prince’s, Notts GC’s Hollinwell, St Anne’s Old Links and Fairmont St Andrews. Find out more by clicking here.