Curtis Knipes, an 18-year-old amateur from Chelmsford in Essex, enjoyed the day of his golfing life to qualify for the 148th Open at Royal Portrush at his first attempt today (July 2).
Twelve players from a starting field of 288 at four venues across the country qualified for golf’s original championship through Final Qualifying as part of The Open Qualifying Series.
Knipes, an England Boys International, had scores of 67 and 68 for a nine-under-par total to share top spot in Final Qualifying at Prince’s Golf Club in Kent with Callum Shinkwin, the pair finishing one ahead of Canadian Austin Connelly.
Three birdies in a row to end the front nine in the afternoon put Knipes into contention, and then two more at the 15th and 16th got him to ten under par. He dropped a shot at the short 17th, before driving into a bunker at the last, but he showed his nerve in getting up and down for a par from 100 yards.
Knipes said: “It’s huge to get into The Open – the best competition in the world. I wasn’t that nervous, I had nothing to lose. I must thank my caddie, as without him I would not have got in. I played at Royal Portrush last year in the Boys Amateur and got to the last 16.”
Shinkwin, 26, runner-up at the 2017 Scottish Open two years ago, had planned to spend the day playing with friends at Royal St George’s, but was glad he remembered he was due to play next door as he qualified for his third Open. After an opening 70, he birdied five of the first seven holes in the afternoon on the way to a best-of-the-day 65.
Shinkwin said: “It’s great to get back in The Open. I’ve had two poor experiences, when I’ve missed the cut, but hopefully this time I’ll perform well. I had to save par on 16 and 17 and then had a 15-footer at the last, and knew birdie would guarantee a spot, so it was great when it went in.”
Connelly, 22, got through a play-off two years ago at nearby Royal Cinque Ports before finishing 14th at Royal Birkdale on his debut in The Open. An eagle at the 15th, his sixth, with a hybrid from 208 yards into the wind to a foot, set up an afternoon 66, which also included four birdies in a row on his second nine. Connelly thought a dropped shot at his last hole would mean a play-off again but he sneaked through by a shot.
Brandon Wu, a 22-year-old American amateur, maintained his fairytale spell by producing a polished performance to claim top spot at Fairmont St Andrews, where he followed a brilliant 64 in the morning with a 67 to finish three shots clear of the field on nine-under-par.
The two other spots were claimed by young Scots Connor Syme and Sam Locke as they both passed the test for a second time in recent years. Syme finished second after two 67s, while Locke, last year’s Silver Medal winner at Carnoustie, won a tight battle for the third and final spot with rounds of 69 and 67.
Jack Senior made it to The Open for the second year in a row when he finished alongside Garrick Porteous at St Annes Old Links on 10-under-par 134, with Matthew Baldwin the third qualifier a stroke behind.
Andrew Wilson carded rounds of 69 and 67 to take top spot at Notts Hollinwell on seven under par. He was five under through 17 holes of his morning round, before carding a double-bogey on the 18th, but then bounced back in the second round with five birdies in an opening nine half of 31. The 25-year-old former English international went on to birdie the 14th, but then dropped his first shots of the round on the 15th and 16th, before regaining his composure to bag two closing pars.
It also turned out to be a very good day for the reigning English Amateur champion Thomas Thurloway from Crawley, who carded two rounds of 69 to finish one shot behind Wilson on six-under-par 138. Thurloway, who is about to go into his senior year at the University of Toledo, had a rollercoaster finish to his second round during which he drove the green on the 346-yard par-4 16th but then left his eagle putt in the jaws of the hole, before watching as his drive on the long 17th clip a tree and drop into the rough no more than 100 yards from the tee. From there he did well to escape with a par five, before completing the job with his fifth birdie of the round on the closing hole.
The third player to qualify at Notts was English professional Ashton Turner. He led Final Qualifying last year, but this time he had to do it the hard way by carding rounds of 67 and 72 and then beating David Coupland at the third hole of a play-off with a bogey five after both players had driven into a fairway bunker off the tee.