Golf: Gallacher delighted after earning place in the Open

BATHGATE'S Stephen Gallacher today revealed he'd endured an agonising wait before finally learning he had secured a spot in the forthcoming Open at St Andrews

The 35-year-old drowned his sorrows after fearing he'd been pipped for an exemption spot by David Horsey after the Englishman's win in the BMW International Open in Munich.

But, just before boarding a plane to fly back to Edinburgh, Gallacher got a call to say his place in the world's oldest major was secure.

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"I didn't think I was in so I had a few pints," he told the Evening News. "But then I got a phone call to say I had secured one of the spots, which is fantastic."

Gallacher's success in qualifying from a current form order of merit on the European Tour means he'll be returning to the scene of his biggest victory – the 2004 Dunhill Links Championship.

The former Walker Cup player's last Open appearance was also at St Andrews five years ago and he'll head for the Old Course as Scottish golf's form player.

In his last 13 events, Gallacher has missed the cut just once and, not surprisingly, he's delighted with the way he has performed since returning to the European Tour after missing the second half of last season through illness. "Even without this, I think what I've done this year merits an A plus and to be looking forward to playing in The Open at St Andrews has capped it off," admitted the former Scottish amateur champion.

"I've been trying to tick off a few goals as I've been going along and hopefully I'll be able to book a place in the Dubai World Championship and perhaps even a place in the top 20 in Europe before the season is finished."

In addition to The Open, Gallacher also has next week's Barclays Scottish Open to look forward to and he should get into this week's French Open, another of the big-money events, as well.

"I was hoping to finish in the top ten (in Munich] to get into the French Open but I'm first reserve and have got a chance as I believe there are a few guys injured."

Gallacher's success means at least six Scots will be at St Andrews, the Lothians player joining former Open winners Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie as well as Colin Montgomerie, Andrew Coltart and Martin Laird in the Old Course field.

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A number of other Lothians players are among those aiming to add to that tally when they line up tomorrow at four courses near St Andrews in the Local Final Qualifying.

Lloyd Saltman is back at Scotscraig, where he passed the same test in 2005 before winning the Silver Medal for leading amateur and he'll be joined there by fellow Scots Steven Duncan, Ross Kellett, Chris Doak, Barry Hume and Ross Bell.

Among those heading for Ladybank are Lothians quintet Elliot Saltman, Jamie McLeary, Mark Kerr, John Gallagher and Alan Reid, the latter having come through Regional qualifying at Goswick.

Joining them there are former British Boys' champion Jordan Findlay, Michael Stewart, Greig Hutcheon, Sam Cairns, David Law and Callum Macaulay.

Paul Ferrier and Craig Gordon are in the field at Kingsbarns, as are Stephen Gray, Eric Ramsay and Craig Mathieson, while the field at Fairmont St Andrews includes Andrew Oldcorn, Lee Harper and Steven O'Hara.