A whirlwind week was made more than worthwhile for Laurie Canter as he finished with a flourish to book a place at his fourth Open Championship.
The 33-year-old led home the quintet of qualifiers at Royal Porthcawl, successfully navigating the ever-changing elements on the South Wales coast to finish -8 through 36 holes, five birdies on his second round back nine taking him clear of the pack.
He will be joined at Royal Liverpool by Open debutant Brandon Robinson Thompson (-4) and the returning Matthew Southgate (-2), Oliver Farr (-1) and Jazz Janewattananond (-1).
Farr and Janewattananond were preparing for a play-off until Oliver Bekker, who was leading on -7 after 27 holes as part of Canter’s group, added to two back nine double-bogeys with a triple-bogey seven down the last.
"The game never fails to surprise,” Canter said. “I have been playing pretty well recently but making mistakes.
“I hit the ball really well tee to green, I could have put a few more shots away in the morning but I played really nicely through the afternoon.
“I just felt in control. It was one of those days where it is great you play 36 holes as you just keep it rolling.
“I was very happy to shoot five-under down the back nine. It looks like I just turned it on when I needed it but truthfully, I was just trying to keep doing what I’d done for the first 27.
“I was playing in Spain on Sunday, got home at 1am on Monday morning, had six hours kip, saw my daughter and drove down here.
“There is no other Championship I would consider doing that to try and qualify for. It is the biggest in the world and it is where you want to be.”
Scoring had proved tricky for the early starters at Porthcawl but Robinson Thompson raced out the blocks, three consecutive birdies helping him reach the turn in 32.
A dropped shot at 13 was his only blemish amid two further birdies as he carded a 66, level at the summit with Bekker at the halfway stage, and a one-over 72 second time around was enough for him to stay above the dotted line.
“I putted beautifully in the morning, hit the ball in play pretty much everywhere and holed a lot of putts,” he said.
“It was good fun. I hit a couple of loose shots in the afternoon with the weather coming in for four or five holes but I battled through it.
“To qualify for The Open is the biggest achievement in my life. All I remember about Hoylake is watching Tiger Woods hitting rippers around there to win.
“Playing at Royal Porthcawl is great preparation for the test ahead.”
Southgate has fond memories of Open Championships on Merseyside. The 34-year-old made his debut at Hoylake in 2014 and shot 67-65 over the final two days to earn a share of sixth at Royal Birkdale three years later.
It was that ability to finish strongly which proved pivotal at Porthcawl. Dropped shots at 12 and 14, with a particularly nasty greenside bunker located at the latter, took him back to level par but consecutive birdies down the final two holes were the definition of timely.
“It was great to make that birdie at the last,” said Southgate, part of The Open Radio commentary team for The 150th Open at St Andrews.
“I just ripped my driver and hit such a good second shot in there and the putt was just dead straight – 14 to 15 feet up the hill. I just thought ‘keep your head straight and give yourself a chance’. I hit a great putt and it went right down the middle.
“This is my fifth Open and it is a Championship I love more than any other.”
Janewattananond also came up clutch when it mattered, an eagle at the par-5 17th taking him into the red for the day and sealing a fourth Open appearance for the Thai star.
“I have become really fond of playing the links courses,” he said. “Royal Porthcawl is an amazing golf course to play and to qualify here makes me love links golf even more.
“I cannot wait to be back playing The Open and this is very similar to what we will play at Royal Liverpool. I am so happy to have made it.”
Farr, meanwhile, is becoming a master of Final Qualifying. Twelve months on from following in his father Peter’s footsteps and booking an Open spot at St Andrews, he repeated the feat – albeit in contrasting circumstances.
Five birdies down the front nine of his second round ultimately proved crucial but, having been among the early starters, Farr had a nervy wait to see if he had done enough.
Bekker’s back-nine wobble may have ended his chances but a birdie on the 17th for Trystan Perkins, part of the penultimate group, took him to level par and threw him back into play-off contention.
Perkins could only par the last, however, allowing Farr (and Janewattananond) the chance to breathe a sigh of relief and pack the clubs away.
“I was very disappointed initially – I three-putted the last and I thought I would miss out,” Farr said.
“As other scores were coming in, I was out there warming up for a play-off and didn’t expect to not have to go through one.
It is great to qualify in back-to-back years. At Hollinwell, I was in a different scenario where I was comfortable coming down the last and I knew was in.
“Here, I was trying to push for birdies to get into it. It was a different experience but I am just glad to be playing in The Open again.”