IN THE four years Open regional qualifying has been staged at Bruntsfield Links, it was the best round recorded. Unfortunately for Conor O’Neil, his eye-catching 67 was eclipsed within an hour at the Capital venue.
Well and truly, too. Word had spread that Kristian Johannessen, a 19-year-old from Oslo, was on the verge of producing something special and he certainly didn’t disappoint the members congregated close to the 18th green. In went a testing four-footer for par. It gave Johannessen, who has just finished school and is off to the University of Tennessee after the summer, a superb eight-under-par 63.
Illuminated by a run of five birdies in a row from the 13th, it constituted a new course record. While two members – Charlie Simpson and Dave Donaldson – have had the same score, this one was on a longer layout due to new tees being in operation at the fifth, 11th and 17th holes.
‘I came over just for the chance. I’d never been to Edinburgh before, so it was nice to visit,” said Johannessen before heading off to catch a flight home to play in the Norwegian Club Championship starting today.
“When is Final Qualifying? Tuesday? Oh, OK. We’ll have to deal with that next. It’s a nice problem to have,” he admitted of securing a spot in next week’s 36-hole shoot-out at Glasgow Gailes.
Only eight players earned places there from this regional qualifier – one of 13 being staged around the UK and Ireland. O’Neil, who finished second, is relishing his trip to Ayrshire and so, too, is Paul McKechnie after he made it through on 69.
“I’m a member at Glasgow Gailes and play there a lot,” said O’Neil, whose most recent visit was in the company of European Tour duo Marc Warren and Scott Jamieson as well as Ewen Ferguson, the British Boys’ champion.
“I’ve hit a 64 off the white tees and 65 off the blacks, so I’ve obviously had some good days there,” added O’Neil, a 22-year-old former Scottish Boys’ Order of Merit winner who is in his rookie season as a pro.
Both those efforts have been beaten by McKechnie, who was rewarded for a mad dash back from playing in a Challenge Tour event in Belgium. “I used to have the course record at Gailes back when I was about 18, an eight-under round of 63,” said the 37-year-old from Milton-on-Campsie. “I was seven under at the turn, too, out in 29 – you can stick that on my tombstone!”
Less spectacular but solid nonetheless, his two-under effort yesterday was matched by former Walker Cup player Graham Rankin and Gleneagles-attached Tom Higson as well as amateur duo Colin Baird and Kevin Loughrie. Elliot Saltman claimed the final spot after winning a four-man play-off involving those on 70.