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The Open Qualifying Series

Final Qualifying


Hutsby and Hidalgo the headlines at Dundonald

Sam Hutsby after coming through Final Qualifying for The 152nd Open

There was no doubting the standout performer and the standout moment in Final Qualifying at Dundonald Links, as four players experienced the thrill of earning Open debuts.

Sam Hutsby dominated the 72-man field on a day of fluctuating conditions on the west Ayrshire coast, finishing three clear of his nearest rivals on eight-under.

Yet if Hutsby was the star of the show, the most magical individual act belonged to Spain’s Angel Hidalgo, who sensationally holed his second shot from 120 yards on the par-4 ninth, his final hole, to leapfrog into the qualification places.

A birdie at the last would ultimately have put Hidalgo into a play-off, but he instead gained qualification in the most extraordinary fashion.

“I’m still shaking,” Hidalgo told FQ Radio a few minutes after completing his round.

Angel Hidalgo at Final Qualifying for The 152nd Open

Angel Hidalgo following the incredible hole-out on his final hole

“Obviously I didn't see the ball go in but to be honest I don't care. I just jumped and cried with my caddie and we deserve it. We fight a lot. All this year we've not really had luck.

“The shot was a perfect distance. It was the first time all day I had a full club and, at that type of moment with nerves, I prefer to have a full club.

“I didn’t expect (to hole the shot) when I was in the fairway. It was weird because I was nervous but at the same time I was really confident. It’s not the toughest pin and it’s not the toughest distance for me, but you never expect to hole it in that type of moment, so it’s pretty cool.”

Hidalgo finished at five-under alongside Irish amateur Liam Nolan, before local hero Jack McDonald – one shot worse off at four-under - came through a three-man play-off with Tim Widing and Daniel Young to secure the final place at nearby Troon.

The drama of the play-off occurred long after Hutsby, in the first group out from the 10th tee at 7am, had reached the clubhouse in a glorious position following rounds of 67 and 69.

“I can’t believe I only made one bogey,” said the Englishman, who appeared supremely relaxed on the outside despite feeling under pressure as he closed in on an Open spot.

“It was a grind all day. The bunkers are so brutal around here and I found quite a few of them today, but I managed to recover and the eagle at the par-5 (5th) really got my second round going."

Sam Hutsby at Final Qualifying

Sam Hutsby on his way to winning the Final Qualifying event at Dundonald

Hutsby was a finalist at The Amateur Championship in 2009, the same year he represented Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup.

After 15 years as a professional, he can now celebrate the hugely significant achievement of reaching a major for the first time.

“I’ve missed out by a shot twice, for The Open and the US Open,” he added. “It’s always been a childhood dream to play in a major.

“To be a British player competing in your home Championship, I couldn’t have dreamed of that. I was working in a golf shop two years ago but I’ve put an unbelievable amount of hard work in and this is reward for the sacrifices I’ve made.”

For Irish amateur Nolan, a maiden major comes within a year of his Walker Cup appearance.

The 24-year-old from Galway, who matched Hidalgo’s five-under total with scores of 69 and 70, said: “It’s going to be crazy. I feel like I’ve had a very good amateur career but this is a nice one to tick off, playing in my first major.

“It’s hard to process the fact that I’m actually going to The Open. To get to play (in an event with) Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, all the best players in the world, that’s as good as it gets. I just can’t wait.”

Liam Nolan celebrates qualifying for The 152nd Open

Liam Nolan celebrates qualifying for The 152nd Open

The fourth and final spot at Dundonald was taken by yet another Walker Cup star.

McDonald, whose grandfather Gordon Cosh played The Open at Turnberry in 1977, represented Great Britain & Ireland in the 2015 match against the United States.

Having grown up in nearby Kilmarnock, he can now look forward to a dream Open debut at a course he knows well.

“My papa is an honorary member at Royal Troon. Going back to when I was just a boy, about 12 or 13 years old, he would sign me on there,” said McDonald, who birdied the first play-off hole to progress.

Jack McDonald at Final Qualifying

Jack McDonald is amazed after coming through the play-off

“I remember playing in The Amateur Championship in 2012 at Royal Troon (when he made the semi-finals) and thinking, ‘how good would it be to play in an Open there?’ And I just can’t believe that is going to happen now.

“Getting into any Open is great. But, for me, even more so the fact it’s at Troon. It’ll be amazing. I’ve been walking the dog next to the course along the beach and you can see all the grandstands. It’s going to be an amazing week.”

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