Scotland Being Brave About Open Qualifying
SOME of the country’s top amateurs are fighting to claim one of just 12 spots in the field for the 148th Open Championship at Carnoustie which are up for grabs in Final Qualifying being held today (Tuesday).
From the south, Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie, the reigning Spanish Amateur Champion, is hoping to finish in the top three at Hollinwell, the Nottinghamshire course, which has been in the running to host the Walker Cup.
With Corhampton’s former British Amateur Champion Scott Gregory – who made his Open debut at Royal Troon two years ago, ruled out by injury after his torrid experiences in the US Open at Shinnecock, last month, Hampshire’s hopes of having a representative in Scotland in two weeks’ rests on McKenzie, and 2006 Hampshire Amateur Champion Stuart Archibald, a Basingstoke pro, who plays on the MENA Tour.
Devon’s Jake Burnage, who claimed the 2017 Hampshire Hog at North Hants in his own push to win a place in the Walker Cup team that travelled to LA last year, was also in the field at Notts GC.
But to succeed in the quest for a life-changing appearance in the world’s oldest Major championship, there is the slight matter of some Major winners who are also relying on earning a starting place in the field for Carnoustie at either Prince’s, St Anne’s Old Links, The Renaissance, and Hollinwell.
Two US Open winners in the shape of Retief Goosen, who won at Shinnecock Hills, in 2004, and Graeme McDowell, who took the trophy at Pebble Beach, in 2010, were among the 288 players who teed it up in Final Qualifying.
Robert Rock is another European Tour player in the field at Holinwell with Alex Fitzpatrick, younger brother of Ryder Cup player Matt, who won the Selborne Salver at Blackmoor just six years ago and was US Amateur champion a year later before turning pro.
Hanbury Manor’s Simon Khan, who played his golf in Essex as an amateur, won the BMW PGA at Wentworth in 2010 – and came close again in 2013 – but after several injury hit seasons that have seen him lose his full playing status, he is down to play at Prince’s after finishing eighth at Wildernesse, the Sevenoaks course used in Local Qualifying.
Woburn’s Gary Boyd, who grew up playing golf at Banbury’s Cherwell Edge, has seen his career interrupted by injury having first made his name as winner of England Golf’s Gold Medal when he was just 12.
The Challenge Tour regular has qualified for the Open three times – the last in 2015 at St Andrew’s.
He made it through qualifying for the first time in 2008 at Royal Birkdale but missed the cut.
In 2011 at Royal St George’s he made it to the weekend and finished in a tie for 38th, his best result so far in a Major, having also missed the cut at Pebble Beach when McDowell won the US Open.
Also in the field at Notts GC is Frilford Heath club pro Robert Harrhy who came through Local Qualifying at his home club two weeks ago, with a two-under par 70, two shots behind Oxford Golf Centre pro Adam Wootton, who was a member at Frilford as an amateur, while Castle Royle amateur Aaron Siddle, also qualified on the Red Course with a 71, as did clubmate Timonthy Shin.
Siddle, was drawn at St Anne’s famous links at Lytham, in Lancashire – where European Tour winner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was playing – while Shin earned a spot at Hollinwell.
The most famous qualifier for Carnoustie back in 1999 was Surrey’s Zane Scotland, who created a record by becoming the youngest ever Englishman to play his way into the Open from Local Qualifying, when just 16.
The Woodcote Park player was tipped as a future star and in 2002 won both the Portuguese and Spanish Amateur Championships at the start of that season before missing out on a Walker Cup spot 12 months later when he turned pro.
Scotland was back in Lancashire today after getting one of the reserve spots having just missed out at Frilford with a level par 72.
Zane, who is now forging a reputation as a coach based at Reigate’s Surrey Golf Lab having played on the MENA Tour in the Middle East for the past few years after struggling with a series of injuries.
Scotland also came through qualifying for his first appearance in the Open at St Andrews, in 2010, so knows the challenge lying in store today for the rookies and veterans alike.
Zane, who coaches current England Amateur Champion Todd Clements, from Braintree, said: “There’s going to be a lot of nerves, everyone is thinking about being in The Open before they’re even there so my advice to those guys is just relax, string two rounds together, do what you do.“I think a lot of guys go in thinking they’ve got to shoot the lights out but actually, two decent rounds and you’ll be there or thereabouts, you haven’t got to go mad. If you make a couple of bogeys, don’t lose hope because you could make four of five birdies in six or seven holes and you are right in there
“There’s a lot of panic playing. If you can just try and keep your head, and play pretty steady, it leaves you with a little chance.”
Scotland has not played much golf since the end of the last MENA season – but his trip to Sawgrass straight after The Players Championship saw him win the Pro-Am Tour event in Florda on the notoriously difficult Pete Dye course at the home of the PGA Tour at Ponte Vedra Beach.
But Zane would swop that success for another bash at getting his hands on the Claret Jug.
“There’s a real buzz at final Open qualifying.
The leaderboard is being watched like a hawk by locals, club members and players, caddies, family, you know, who is shooting what which adds a tenseness to it.
“I love that tense atmosphere, the anticipation of being at the Open.”
Kent Walker Cup player Alfie Plant, who qualified for The Open at Royal Birkdale last year by winning the European Amateur Championship at Walton Heath, will hope for some local knowledge at Prince’s.
He will be joined at the Sandwich links which hosted the 1931 Open and is regularly used for Open qualifying by Kent county player Tom Sherrard, from Kings Hill, who lead qualifying at Wildernesse, with a five-under par 67.
Another Kent qualifier was Royal Cinque Ports’ Challenge Tour player Steven Tiley, who was in a share of second at Wildernesse.
But Prince’s Anthony Tarchetti, a winner on the PGA South Region, faces probably the most emotional day trying to qualify at the Prince’s club where he has been the club pro for many years.
Follow their progress and the scoring at www.theopen.com/Qualification/FinalQualifying