Paul Broadhurst and Barry Lane have earned returns to Royal Lytham & St Annes after finishing top of the field at St Annes Old Links; one of four venues used for Open Championship Local Final Qualifying (LFQ).
Broadhurst finished at the top of the 72-man field after carding rounds of 70 and 67 for a seven under par total of 137. The 46 year old Englishman will make his 15th Open Championship appearance, and will have fond memories of Royal Lytham & St Annes after winning the Silver Medal for finishing as low amateur in 1988.
Former Ryder Cup player and six-time European Tour winner said: “I played well all day and I'm looking forward to returning to Royal Lytham.”
Finishing just one shot back, was fellow countryman Barry Lane whose rounds of 68 and 70 were enough to earn him his 15th Open start. The 52-year-old, who also holds six European Tour and three Senior Tour titles, spectacularly chipped in for an eagle three at the final hole. Finishing tied with Lane was 31 year old Argentinian Rafael Echenique who will make his second Open appearance.
Lytham will be the 682nd European Tour appearance of Lane's career, only 24 short of Sam Torrance's record. His Open debut came 25 years ago and the last time he played was in 2006.
At Hillside, Dale Whitnell who represented Great Britain & Ireland in the 2009 Walker Cup topped the leaderboard with an impressive 9-under-par total of 135 around a tough course that only saw 11 players out of the 72-man starting field finish under par. The 23 year old from Five Lakes Golf Club lost in a play-off at Littlestone at last year’s LFQ.
Finishing one shot behind Whitnell was Warren Bennett who will be making his fifth Open appearance. Bennett had a promising amateur career, highlighted by finishing low amateur at the 1994 Open at Turnberry. Bennett went on to win the Scottish PGA Championship in 1999 on his first season on the European Tour, before being forced to resign his tour card in 2009 as the result of a hand injury sustained in a bike accident.
Bennett said: “It's nice to lay a few demons down. I fell as if I'm getting up from the bottom of the barrel. I've had a new coach for the last three months and I feel that has changed my game. I'm looking forward to Lytham. I've qualified five times before. As an amateur in 1994, then as a professional in 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2004, but I had to pull out through injury in 2004. So there's some unfinished business.”
The final qualifier at Hillside was England’s Steven Tiley who shot a 66 in the opening round of the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews. He will make his third Open appearance after previously playing as an amateur at Royal Troon in 2004.
LFQ at West Lancashire took a play-off to decide the final two spots, as American Scott Pinckney and former GB&I 2001 Walker Cup winner Steven O’Hara emerged victorious at the expense of Welsh amateur Richard Bentham and first round leader, American Marty Jertson. Former Boys Amateur Champion O’Hara took five play-off holes to finally seal his Open debut.
Pinckney, who qualified for the 2011 US Open as an amateur, shot the professional course record in his second round with a fantastic eight under par 64, playing his closing nine holes in seven under par, including two chip-ins.
“It is going to be really special to play in an Open and I still can't quite believe it. To be seven under for my last nine holes and having a four foot putt for a birdie at the last hit a spike mark and miss - is just fantastic. It is going to be a real fun test at Lytham and I can't wait to play in my second Major and first as a professional. I've never played Lytham but obviously playing in these kinds of events is the ultimate goal. This is a big step forward for me.”
New Zealand’s Steven Alker topped the field at West Lancashire, posting rounds of 69 and 68 to secure his 3rd Open start after missing the cut in 1998 and 2007.
Last of the venues to complete the qualifying process was Southport & Ainsdale, where a play-off again decided the final elusive Open berths, after Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen had finished outright leader on eight under par. The 24 year old who plies his trade on the European Challenge Tour recorded rounds of 65 and 71 to book a tee time at Royal Lytham & St Annes in July.
“This is a dream come true as far as I’m concerned,” said Madsen. “I have had a pretty good year on the Challenge Tour but this beats everything else I have ever done. It’s the first time I have tried to qualify for The Open so I didn’t know what to expect but I played great this morning and then got off to the best possible start this afternoon. It has all been a huge bonus for me.”
Coming through the play-off was local professional from Royal Liverpool Ian Keenan and Scotland’s Elliot Saltman who made his only Open appearance in 2009 at Turnberry after coming through LFQ at Glasgow – Gailes Links. Missing out from the three-man play-off was Scotsman Chris Doak who unfortunately finished double-bogey, bogey, to find himself in a tie for second.
36-year-old Keenan said, “I’m not sure I can quite believe this. I have come close a few times so it’s great that I have finally managed to pull it off. I’m sure I will have lots of local support at Lytham.”
These 12 qualifiers will line-up alongside 144 other competitors at Royal Lytham & St Annes from 19-22 July.
Full results from all four qualifying courses can be viewed on TheOpen.com here