Wednesday 21 February 2018

English pair Aaron Rai and Matt Wallace to make major debuts at US Open

Ireland's Paul Dunne was among the qualifiers at Walton Heath
Ireland's Paul Dunne was among the qualifiers at Walton Heath

World number 166 Aaron Rai will make his major debut at Erin Hills next month after winning the US Open Championship International Sectional Qualifier.

The Wolverhampton golfer, who has won two of his last five starts on the Challenge Tour, took victory at Walton Heath by one shot.

He finished on 14 under par after five birdies and an eagle in his final nine holes helped him card a second round 64 at the 36-hole event on Monday.

It earned Rai, who was eighth on six under following the first round, a place at the US Open in Wisconsin.

He said: "It's a dream come true to play in any major, and with it being the US Open it makes it extra special.

"It's hard to put it into words at the moment because it hasn't really sunk in.

"I didn't have too many expectations coming into the round really. I didn't want to get too far ahead of myself. It's 36 holes and there is a lot of golf to be played in that period so I tried not to have too many expectations, I just tried to do my best.

"It was nice on the 18th green and to have my mum and dad here this week was incredible."

China's Li Haotong will also play in a major for the first time after he matched Rai's eight-under second round to finish second on 13 under.

Frenchman Alexander Levy will return to the year's second major after finishing in a share of third place on 12 under par alongside Scotland's Richie Ramsay, who will play the US Open for the first time in 10 years and the first time as a professional. Ramsay won the US Amateur Championship in 2006.

English pair Andrew Johnston and Eddie Pepperell also qualified, along with South Africans Oliver Bekker, George Coetzee and Brandon Stone, Frenchman Joel Stalter and Welshman Bradley Dredge.

Paul Dunne of Ireland, South Africa's Thomas Aiken, Matt Wallace of England and Australian Wade Ormsby made it through after a play-off.

Wallace, who recently won the Open de Portugal on only his thrid European Tour start, added: "My first major, I'm so happy. I just can't believe it. Six months ago I was on the Alps Tour which is crazy. I've just had the best six or seven months of my life."

Press Association

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