As golf’s oldest major prepares to return to Royal Portrush after a 68-year hiatus, 288 players battled it out for one of the dozen spots available to tee it up at the Country Antrim course.
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 on July 2.
Players who came through the 13 Regional Qualifying events were joined by leading players without exemption for The Open for a 36-hole shootout at each course.
And there was plenty of drama, including a thrilling play-off, across the four venues as the latest editions to the field of 156 for The Open’s return to Northern Ireland were confirmed.
Fairmont St Andrews
American amateur Brandon Wu continued his upward trajectory by finishing top of the standings at Fairmont St Andrews after shooting nine under to secure his ticket to Portrush.
The 22-year-old finished T35 at Pebble Beach in the US Open last month and followed up that performance by attempting to secure his place at the final major of the year.
Rounds of 64 and 67 ensured he finished three shots better off than Scotland’s Connor Syme and five clear of Sam Locke, with all three qualifying for The Open.
Syme, who put together a pair of 67s at Fairmont, will play in his second Open having missed the cut in 2017 at Royal Birkdale after coming through qualifying at Gailes Links.
Meanwhile, fellow Scot Locke won the Silver Medal for leading amateur at Carnoustie last year and will return to Portrush as a professional after finishing two clear of a trio of players.
“Having come through final qualifying last year, it was good to go out and do that again and I am over the moon,” Locke said. “I knew I wasn't far away from doing something good.”
The most dramatic finish of the day came at Hollinwell, where Ashton Turner saw off Dave Coupland in a play-off that concluded at 9.30pm to seal the final Open berth available.
Turner, who had a form of cerebral palsy called ataxia as a baby, will contest for the Claret Jug for a second year in a row after making it to Carnoustie by qualifying at the same venue.
Andrew Wilson led the way at Notts after finishing his 36 holes on seven under and will play his first ever Open at Portrush, just six months after he turned professional.
“Off the tea I've got a trusty three iron in the bag and I putted solidly so even if I was hitting it wayward I could keep on scoring,” he said.
Former English Amateur champion Thomas Thurloway, part of the Walker Cup squad, will also be at Portrush after finishing one shot behind Wilson in second with back-to-back 69s.
There was disappointment for Thurloway’s Walker Cup teammates, though, as Tom Sloman and Jake Burnage missed out on the play-off for the final qualifying spot by one shot.
The youngest qualifier – and the third amateur to make the cut – came at Prince’s in the shape of Curtis Knipes, who beat a field paced with European Tour winners.
At just 18-years-old, Knipes showed nerves of steel at the Kent venue to finish top of the Final Qualifying leaderboard with rounds of 68 and 67 for a nine-under total.
He was joined at summit by Callum Shinkwin, who posted a 65 in the afternoon and will look to better his previous two Open performances in 2016 and 2017 when he missed the cut.
Canadian Austin Connelly completed the successful trio from the course in Sandwich, having come through a play-off at Cinque Ports en route to finishing 14th at Royal Birkdale in 2017.
What made Knipes’ triumph all the more special was that it arrived after he had already come through Regional Qualifying, leaving a trail of big names in his wake at the former Open venue.
Two-time Ryder Cup star David Howell missed out on the play-off by a shot on seven under, while Matthew Southgate and former Silver Medal winner Alfie Plant also came up short.
St Annes Old Links
A trio of English golfers prevailed at St Annes Old Links, with Jack Senior and Garrick Porteous finishing 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.
Senior birdied five holes in a row in his second round to join former Amateur Championship winner Porteous at the summit, with the 29-year-old from Colchester recording a pair of 67s.
Matt Baldwin was the third and final qualifier from St Annes Old Links, shooting the round of the day in Lancashire with a 65 in the morning and finishing a shot behind the leaders.
Meanwhile, it was not to be for Dylan Keating – the teenage nephew of Boyzone star Ronan Keating – after the 16-year-old came through Regional Qualifying at County Louth.
He shot rounds of 73 and 76 to finish five over, with fellow Regional Qualifier Daniel Sugrue’s Claret Jug dream also ending despite being a shot better off at four over.