Race to make The Open: 10 Scots to watch in first stage of massive battle

Golf correspondent Martin Dempster picks out some tartan hopefuls in regional qualifiers

The annual scramble for spots in The Open begins on Monday, when 15 venues around the UK and Ireland stage Regional Qualifying events.

A total of 2,043 entries were received by The R&A for this year’s initial stage in the qualifying process, leading to an additional event being added in the battle to tee up in the 152nd Open at Royal Troon next month.

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The majority of Scottish hopefuls are heading to Kilmarnock (Barassie) to see if they can clear the first hurdle, which is an 18-hole shoot-out, with the field at Goswick, as has always been the case due to its proximity to the border, also including lots of players flying the Saltire.

The gruelling battle to secured covered spots in the 152nd Open at Royal Troon begins for the majority of players on Monday. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images.The gruelling battle to secured covered spots in the 152nd Open at Royal Troon begins for the majority of players on Monday. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images.
The gruelling battle to secured covered spots in the 152nd Open at Royal Troon begins for the majority of players on Monday. Picture: Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images.

Aiming to progress to Final Qualifying, which takes place on Tuesday, 2 July, here are ten Scots to keep an eye on at the Regional Qualifying venues.

Sebastian Sandin

The 21-year-old Dunblane New player, who is at Goswick, handed himself a massive confidence boost for this assignment when he upstaged some of Scotland’s top home-based professionals to win the Cardrona Classic on the Tartan Pro Tour, becoming just the second amateur to come out on top on the Challenge Tour feeder circuit.

Niall Shiels Donegan

Dunblane New amateur Sebastian Sanden is teeing up at Goswick on the back of winning the Cardrona Classic presented by Cala Homes on the Tartan Pro Tour. Picture: Tartan Pro TourDunblane New amateur Sebastian Sanden is teeing up at Goswick on the back of winning the Cardrona Classic presented by Cala Homes on the Tartan Pro Tour. Picture: Tartan Pro Tour
Dunblane New amateur Sebastian Sanden is teeing up at Goswick on the back of winning the Cardrona Classic presented by Cala Homes on the Tartan Pro Tour. Picture: Tartan Pro Tour

Trying his luck at Frilford Heath, which was the venue added to the original list, the California-based Scot, who shone for Northwestern in his first year on the US college circuit, came through a 36-hole stroke-play qualifier in The Amateur Championship at Ballyliffin and has come on leaps and bounds since failing to pass this test at Panmure a couple of years ago.

David Rudd

The Edinburgh-based player is teeing up at North Hants, Justin Rose’s home club, and will be buoyed by some recent promising displays, notably finishing second behind Sandin in the latest Tartan Pro Tour event in the Borders, where he carded an eye-catching 65 that contained eight birdies in the second round.

Rory Franssen

In-form Paul McKechnie, pictured during last year's Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at Scotscraig, is among the hopefuls at Goswick on Monday. Picture: Kenny Smith/Getty Images.In-form Paul McKechnie, pictured during last year's Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at Scotscraig, is among the hopefuls at Goswick on Monday. Picture: Kenny Smith/Getty Images.
In-form Paul McKechnie, pictured during last year's Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at Scotscraig, is among the hopefuls at Goswick on Monday. Picture: Kenny Smith/Getty Images.

Among the Kilmarnock (Barassie) hopefuls, he’ll be aiming to draw on having been successful in a similar 18-hole shoot-out almost exactly a year ago, when a five-under-par 66 in a field of 144 professionals and amateurs saw the Inverness man but now based in Auchterarder secure the top qualifying spot for The International Series England event, which is on the Asian Tour schedule, at Close House near Newcastle.

Paul McKechnie

A decade after qualifying for the game’s oldest major at Royal Liverpool, the Braid Hills Golf Centre-attached PGA professional is heading to Goswick with a spring in his step, having finished joint-second behind Craig Lee in last week’s PGA Professional Championship at Conwy before carding a five-under-par 66 to win the Hamilton Pro-Am on the Tartan Tour on Thursday.

Tom Higson

Former DP World Tour player George Murray, now back in the amateur ranks and working as a fish merchant, has entered regional qualifying for the 152nd Open. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.Former DP World Tour player George Murray, now back in the amateur ranks and working as a fish merchant, has entered regional qualifying for the 152nd Open. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.
Former DP World Tour player George Murray, now back in the amateur ranks and working as a fish merchant, has entered regional qualifying for the 152nd Open. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

Teeing up at Minchinhampton, the Gleneagles Hotel-attached player will be aiming to produce some of the sparkling form that saw him claim a number of course records in recent years, including an eight-under-par 62 at Royal Dornoch in the Highland Links Pro-Am in 2020. Around that time, he also shot back-to-back 64s at Dumbarnie Links.

Calum Fyfe

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He beat a strong field to win the Scottish Par 3 Championship at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre on the outskirts of Aberdeen last month, adding to title triumphs on both the PGA EuroPro Tour and Tartan Pro Tour in recent years, and can also take confidence for his test at Barassie from winning a similar 18-hole shoot-out to secure a spot in the DP World Tour’s Betfred British Masters at Close House.

Ryan Lumsden

Joining Rudd in the field at North Hants, the London-born Scot has been playing on the Challenge Tour this season and, based on an eye-catching college career at Northwestern and a subsequent win as a professional on the MENA Tour, where Bob MacIntyre also made his breakthrough in the paid ranks, is certainly good enough to tee up an Open appearance.

George Murray

The former DP World Tour player - his best finish was third in the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship - is now back in the amateur ranks and works as a fish merchant, but he’ll be hoping to roll back the years to when he won the Scottish Amateur Championship in 2004 at Gullane and also the Scottish Challenge in 2010 - three years before Brooks Koepka did likewise - at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore.

Cameron Mukherjee

Fresh from coming through the two-round qualifier for the Amateur Championship at Ballyliffin, the Loretto School pupil and member at both Craigielaw and Gullane is joining his two brothers, Oliver and Sam, at Goswick. Cameron won the under-16s’ trophy in this year’s Scottish Boys’ Open at Irvine and is currently the top-ranked Scot on the under-16s’ list in the European Golf Rankings.

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