Bob MacIntyre’s sparkling spell in his rookie season on the European Tour has secured him an Open Championship debut at Royal Portrush next month, joining Paul Lawrie and Russell Knox as the only Scottish players currently exempt for the final major of the season.
The 22-year-old from Oban has secured his spot in the R&A event of the Race to Dubai rankings after the conclusion of the BMW International Open in Germany as one of the top five players not otherwise exempt within the top 20.
MacIntyre sits 15th in the standings after recording back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Betfred British Masters at Hillside and the Made in Denmark and can now look forward to making his major debut in just over three weeks’ time when the Claret Jug joust is held on the Antrim Coast for the first time since 1951.
“I’m over the moon. I thought I might never get another chance to get into The Open or a major after losing the Amateur Championship final in 2016, but here we are,” said MacIntyre. “If I was ever to win one major, it would be The Open that I’d want and it’s great to be in the field.”
The left-hander’s success in securing an exemption – he recovered from being two-over early on his opening round at Golfclub München Eichenried to make his 14th cut in 16 events since graduating from the Challenge Tour – came on the eve of the scramble for spots in the 148th Open Championship getting underway throughout Great Britain & Ireland.
Thirteen regional qualifying events being held today include 18-hole shoot-outs at Panmure and Goswick, near Berwick, with the lucky ones progressing to next week’s final qualifying, with the Scottish venue this year being Fairmont St Andrews.
The hopefuls at Panmure include Craig Lee, who took some time away from the game after losing his European Tour card but is beginning to get back into it again. Indeed, he handed himself a timely confidence boost for this test by producing a strong performance to finish third behind compatriot Alastair Forsyth in last week’s PGA Professional Championship at Hunstanton in Norfolk.
Also in the field at the Angus venue are brothers Stewart and Peter Whiteford, the latter having come through a similar shootout, albeit over 36 holes, to secure a spot in last year’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.
Paul McKechnie, who made it all the way through from the regional stage to play at Royal Liverpool in 2014, is among the hopefuls again, as is Conor O’Neil, who will be hoping to transfer his recent good form on the PGA EuroPro Tour on to this stage. So, too, will Ryan Campbell, who finished runner-up on the third-tier circuit at Cumberwell Park last week.
Others bidding to progress at Panmure include Zander Culverwell, Jack McDonald and Keir McNicoll.
The Goswick line up also includes two siblings as Lloyd Saltman is joined by younger brother Zack at the Northumberland venue. James Ross, a former Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year, is also in that field, having travelled from Houston, where he is now based, to try his luck along with two of Scotland’s up-and-coming amateurs, Kieran Cantley and Connor Wilson.
Jack Doherty, who narrowly missed out in final qualifying for Royal Troon in 2016, and former Dunfermline Athletic defender Neil Fenwick are others heading down the A1 at the start of a journey they hope will end with an Irish Sea crossing.