Ben Hutchinson enjoyed one of the best days of his golfing career to book a place in The 149th Open at Royal St George’s.
Twelve players from a starting field of 288 at four venues in England qualified for golf’s original championship through Final Qualifying and will now take their places at the famous Kent links.
Hutchinson carded rounds of 66 and 65 at St Annes Old Links to finish top of the standings on a 13-under-par total of 131 and qualify for The Open for the first time in his career.
The 25-year-old from Leeds plays out of Howley Hall and has competed on the European Challenge Tour and the MENA Tour where his best finish was tied third in last year’s Royal Golf Club Bahrain Open. His run of three birdies in the closing holes of the second round proved crucial in securing his place at Royal St George’s where he will make his major championship debut.
“It feels awesome to be in The Open and I just want to enjoy it. What a day! It’s been a dream of mine to play in The Open," Hutchinson said.
“The more pressure I felt, the better my golf got which was a good feeling. You watch every year and think maybe one year. This is my fifth year in Final Qualifying and I thought maybe one year I would qualify.”
“It feels awesome to be in The Open and I just want to enjoy it. What a day! It’s been a dream of mine to play in The Open." – Ben Hutchinson
Joining him is amateur Sam Bairstow, who fired in nine birdies in an outstanding bogey-free nine-under-par 63 to set a new course record in the opening round at the iconic Lancashire links. Three birdies either side of the turn, including two back-to-back in the closing holes, ensured that the Englishman signed off for a second round 69 and a 12-under-par total of 132.
Bairstow, who won the North of England Open Amateur Championship and Hampshire Salver in 2019 and reached the quarter-finals of The Amateur Championship at Nairn earlier this month, will make his debut when he tees it up on the Kent coast.
Seven-time European Tour winner Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño was also in sizzling scoring form during the first round which saw him roll in seven birdies and an eagle on the way to an eight-under-par round of 64.
A bogey-free 68 in the second round ensured the Spaniard claimed the final qualifying place on the same mark as Bairstow to reach The Open for the first time since 2014 when he played at Royal Liverpool. It will be his seventh appearance in the Championship with his best finish of tied-47th coming at Turnberry in 2009.
Daniel Hillier led the qualifiers at Hollinwell after clinching a birdie on the final hole to edge out local member Jonathan Thomson on a 11-under-par total of 133.
The New Zealander started the event in ominous form with an eight-under-par 64, which tied the course record, and included a remarkable run of five birdies from the 13th in among a total of ten for the round. A three-under-par 69 ensured Hillier qualified for The Open and he will make his second appearance in a major championship after the US Open.
“I’ve got goosebumps hearing that [I’ve qualified], which pretty much sums it up. It’s been a pretty crazy day," Hillier said.
“It’s pretty awesome to equal the course record here – I had no idea while I was playing. I got on a good run and just tried to keep it going as long as I could.
“It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to play in Major championships, and this will be my second one, so I’m really excited to get into it.”
“I’ve got goosebumps hearing that [I’ve qualified], which pretty much sums it up. It’s been a pretty crazy day." – Daniel Hillier
Thomson delighted the small band of members following his progress and he pressed home advantage to seal the second qualifying place on 10-under-par 134. The Englishman, who best finish on the European Tour was a tied-second place in the Made In Demark three years ago, will also debut at Royal St George’s after rounds of 69 and 65 on his home patch.
Richard Mansell finished one shot further back on nine-under-par to also secure a first ever berth in The Open. A 68 and 67 was enough for the Englishman, who has a win on the EuroPro Tour to his name, to book his place at Royal St George’s.
Nicholas Poppleton was the leading qualifier at West Lancashire on a 10-under-par total of 134 and he will take his place in The Open for the first time.
The Englishman opened with two birdies in the first round and picked up further shots on the 5th and 9th before the turn. Four additional birdies at the 10th, 11th, 13th and 14th holes led to an opening seven-under-par 65, before he followed up with a second round 69 which included five birdies.
Three shots further back was South African Louis De Jager who secured the second qualifying place on a seven-under-par total of 137. The 34-year-old, who counts five wins on the Sunshine Tour in his career so far, will also make his debut in The Open at Royal St George’s after rounds of 67 and 70 on England’s golf coast.
The final spot was clinched by Daniel Croft, a PGA professional, who finished one shot further back on six-under-par 138. The Englishman played steady golf in the first round, carding three birdies in a two-under-par round of 70, before stepping it up in the second round with six birdies, including three-in-a-row on the 5th, 6th and 7th holes, on the way to a four-under-par 68. Croft will feature in a major championship for the first time when he tees it up at Royal St George’s.
Deyen Lawson qualified for The Open for the first time in his career after finishing as the front-runner at Prince’s. The Australian, who goes by the nickname ‘Digger’, followed up a two-under-par 70 that mixed six birdies and four bogeys with a second round 71 to finish on three-under-par 141.
“I’m over the moon. I’ve never played a major and it’s been a goal of mine for quite a while – since I was a little kid really ..." – Deyen Lawson
He topped the leaderboard one shot clear of English pairing Sam Forgan and Connor Worsdall who secured the two remaining qualifying places available today at the Kent links, only a short distance from where The Open will be played next month.
“I’m over the moon. I’ve never played a major and it’s been a goal of mine for quite a while – since I was a little kid really watching golf and seeing the best players in the world play in majors. To be able to qualify for this it is amazing," Lawson said.
"You try not to think about it and just try and stay in the moment, which I thought I was really quite good at today. It’s good to look over and see Royal St George’s – but I was more looking at it as a fan. But now obviously I can go over and play it – which will be nice.
“You think about the players that have won The Open and the players that have played. It’s one of the biggest tournaments in the world and it will be great to play.”
Worsdall, who turned professional only four years ago, got off to a flying start in round one with a five-under-par 67 that included six birdies but found the going tough in the afternoon with the Englishman making six bogeys during a three-over-par 75.
Forgan, who finished first in his Regional Qualifying event at the same venue last weekend, was level-par after the first round and started the second round convincingly with three birdies on the bounce early on. However, a double-bogey 6 on his 16th hole led to a nervy finish with two vital pars in the closing holes securing his major championship debut next month.