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George Coetzee and Justin Walters of South Africa and Jin Jeong of South Korea have secured their places in the field at The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, Hoylake at the conclusion of the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.
The Joburg Open was the second event in the new Open Qualifying Series consisting of 14 events in nine countries on five continents that gives players on the world’s leading Tours a chance to qualify for the 143rd Open Championship from 13-20 July, 2014.
Coetzee closed out his final round with a six under par 66 to finish at 19 under par for the tournament, three shots clear of the rest of the field. The victory marks Coetzee’s first win on The European Tour and confirms his fourth consecutive Open appearance. The 27-year-old’s best performance at The Open was in 2011 when he finished 15th at Royal St George’s in his Major Championship debut.
“I’m very happy to have qualified here this week for The Open in front of my friends and family. I focused on winning as I knew that would get me into The Open. I thought about it coming down the stretch but just had to play one shot at a time and lucky for me it worked out today,” said Coetzee, who is among a long list of South Africans who have played for the Claret Jug including Champions Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els.
He added, “Ernie is the reason I am here, I used to watch him on TV and I thought that’s what I want to do. You definitely don’t want to go through your career without winning a Major especially the oldest and best one.”
Walters finished tied for second place at 16 under alongside Jeong and England’s Tyrrell Hatton after posting a one over par 73, enough to earn his first trip to The Open. Walters and Jeong edged out Hatton for the Open qualifying places based on their higher positions in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). Thirty-three year old Walters, who was born in South Africa but lives in England, has tried to qualify on three previous occasions and is elated to be part of the field at Royal Liverpool.
“Coming down 18 I didn’t know the situation so I was quite nervous with the last putt but afterwards I found out that it was based on the world rankings and I had snuck into The Open,” he said.
“Since I can remember I’ve always wanted to play in The Open. I watched it on TV for the last ten years and just wanted to tee it up. I remember watching Tiger in 2006 at Hoylake and I’m definitely going to play a few extra practice rounds there.”
Jeong finished with a one under par 71 on Sunday to earn his share of second place and the third qualifying spot. He will return to The Open for the first time since 2010 at St Andrews when he earned the Silver Medal as the leading amateur in the field. The 24-year-old won his first event as a professional in December 2013 at the ISPS Handa Perth International and is looking forward to his second Open Championship.
“It means a lot to qualify here. I have dreamed of winning the Claret Jug. I have great memories of playing at St Andrews in 2010 so I’m looking forward to playing again,” said Jeong.
“It was one of the reasons I played here this week and I look forward to playing in another Major and enjoying the experience again.”
Coetzee, Walters and Jeong join John Senden, Rhein Gibson and Bryden Macpherson of Australia in the field at Royal Liverpool. The Australian players secured the three places on offer at the first Open Qualifying Series event at the Emirates Australian Open in November 2013.
“The Open Championship is golf’s most international major and we are pleased to welcome three more players to the field following the latest Open Qualifying Series event in South Africa,” said Paul Baxter, Deputy Chairman of The R&A Championship Committee.
“The Joburg Open was a wonderful venue for the second event in the series and there has been a positive reaction from the players to the new qualifying process. I would like to congratulate George, Justin and Jin on their success this week and wish them the best of luck at Royal Liverpool in July.”
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series is set to take place from March 6-7, 2014 at Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand.
For more information about the Open Qualifying Series visit TheOpen.com/Qualification.