By Richard Williamson
TWO North West golfers will be teeing it up at the 148th Open after coming through the nerve-shredding qualifying contest.
Matthew Baldwin (Royal Birkdale) and Jack Senior (Carus Green) filled two of the crucial top three places on the Fylde coast at St Anne’s Old Links to successfully survive one of the sport’s most ruthless days.
Just 12 players are successful from the four final qualifying venues which sees a combination of ambitious amateurs and established European Tour players mixing it in a 36-hole one-day shootout for one of the coveted places.
Competition has been particularly intense this year with The Open making an emotional return to Royal Portrush, where the atmosphere is bound to be something special. All tickets have already sold out.
Golf’s oldest major is back on Irish soil for the first time in 68 years, from July 18-21 – and 288 players slugged it out to make the final, all-important dozen.
Three qualifying spots were on offer at four courses across the UK, with Notts (Hollinwell), Prince’s, St Annes Old Links and Fairmount St Andrews on hosting duties, as the latest additions to the 156 starters in Northern Ireland were about to be decided.
Senior joined Garrick Porteous at the top of the leaderboard on ten under to secure their Open berths.
It is the second year in a row, 30-year-old Senior has been successful at the Lytham course, coming through Final Qualifying last year to play his second Open at Carnoustie. He will be hoping it is third time lucky in terms of making the cut.
Senior birdied five holes in a row in his second round to join former Amateur Championship winner Porteous at the summit. He tweeted: “Absolutely made up to qualify for The Open at Portrush.”
Baldwin was third, shooting the round of the day in Lancashire with a 65 in the morning and finishing a shot behind the leaders. He tweeted: “Major number 5 and counting. Can’t believe how excited I am to have qualified for The Open at Royal Portrush. Delighted for Jack and Garrick too!”
The Southport golfer’s best finish in an Open was tied for 23rd in 2012 at Royal Lytham.
The pair will be joined by Bromborough’s European Tour star Paul Waring who also booked a place at Portrush through The Open Qualifying Series Ireland.