Sport Golf

Saturday 20 September 2014

Amateur Paul Dunne secures place at the British Open

Published 01/07/2014 | 23:27

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Irish amateur Paul Dunne capped a memorable week by securing a place at the Open at Royal Liverpool after coming through final qualifying - although his hopes were nearly ended even before his round had begun.

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The 21-year-old, studying at the University of Alabama and a member of the victorious European Collegiate team which won the Palmer Cup against the United States opponents at Walton Heath at the weekend, arrived on the first tee at Woburn with just a minute to spare ahead of his opening round.

If the nerve-wracking start had affected him it did not show as he carded back-to-back 67s to post 10 under and claim one of three spots available at each of the four venues hosting qualifying.

"It gave me a bit of a fright. I misjudged the time it would take me to get from the clubhouse out to the 10th tee but fortunately I managed to hit my opening tee shot straight down the middle," said Dunne, from Greystones.

"It has been an incredible couple of days both here and at Walton Heath and it's something I will never forget.

"This is the first time I have ever played in an event like this so I wasn't sure what would be a good score.

"I just decided to press and see what happened and it turned out very well."

European Tour professional Oliver Fisher came second on seven under with Welshman Rhys Enoch winning a three-man play-off at the first hole by chipping in from 25 feet for birdie to claim the final place.

In terms of scoring Sunningdale proved the most testing of the venues with only two players under par.

Matthew Southgate carded an opening 70 before a five-under 64 in the afternoon catapulted him to the top of the leaderboard on four under, one stroke ahead of South Korean 2009 US Amateur champion An Byeong-hun (69-66).

"It's amazing, I must have tried to qualify for the Open 10 times since I got down to scratch as an amateur," said 25-year-old Southgate.

Londoner Chris Rodgers had an agonising wait before securing his Open debut but fortunately he was not left to rue a bogey at his final hole as a one-over total of 139 was enough to earn him third spot.

"It's a dream come true. I can really look forward to Hoylake and see what happens," he said.

Scotland's Jamie McLeary had a course-record 63 at Glasgow Gailes to thank for his qualification for an Open debut.

Despite missing eight successive cuts on the European Tour, the 33-year-old carded an eagle and seven birdies in his eight-under-par opening round and that afforded him the luxury of a 72 in the afternoon as he still finished in second place behind European Tour veteran Marc Warren, who was nine under for his 36 holes.

Warren was six shots off the pace beginning his second round but a 64 saw him edge out McLeary, from Bonnyrigg in Midlothian, by two strokes.

"I was really confident coming in here as it's a course I play a lot," said the 33-year-old Warren, who completed his round by holing from a greenside bunker for a birdie.

"It means a lot to get back into The Open. Last year was my first taste of it but I was frustrated as I was close to making the cut and you want another shot at it."

Paul McKechnie, a former EuroPro Tour number one, made it a trio of Scottish qualifiers and a maiden Open appearance after he birdied the first play-off hole to beat Rhys Davies after both finished three under.

At Hillside in Southport English duo John Singleton and Chris Hanson and Swede Oscar Floren all qualified with amateur Nick Marsh unfortunately missing out in the play-off after all four tied for first place on six under.

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