Lothian pair join Marc Warren in securing Open places

OPEN DOOR: Marc Warren came through his qualifying round at Gailes Links in Ayrshire. Jamie McLeary is pictured below
OPEN DOOR: Marc Warren came through his qualifying round at Gailes Links in Ayrshire. Jamie McLeary is pictured below
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Stephen Gallacher is being joined in The Open at Hoylake in a fortnight’s time by three players with a Capital connection.

Marc Warren, Jamie McLeary and Paul McKechnie all secured spots on Merseyside through yesterday’s Final Qualifying event at Gailes Links in Ayrshire.

Warren won the two-round shoot-out with a nine-under-par total of 133 (69-64), finishing two shots ahead of McLeary, while McKechnie claimed the last place in a play-off.

Warren’s wife Laura is an Edinburgh girl, her dad Alistair McDonald being a long-time Craigmillar Park member.

She will be heading to Hoylake to support Warren along with their young son, Archie.

“He must be my lucky charm,” noted Warren of the fact he has now qualified for back-to-back Opens since the wee man was born.

Warren’s debut in the Claret Jug joust at Muirfield 12 months ago ended prematurely as he missed the cut.

“It means a lot to get back into The Open,” he admitted. “Last year was my first taste of it and that was great playing in Scotland.

“But I was frustrated as I was close to making the cut. I missed out by two shots after taking a 6 at the last, where I went for the flag.

“You want another shot at it. I played the British Amateur at Hoylake and really liked the golf course and I’m really excited about going there. I’ve never got through Open qualifying before, so it’s nice.”

Bonnyrigg-based McLeary made amends for missing out by a shot after leading following the first round in the same event at North Berwick last year.

“I should have qualified then,” recalled the 33-year-old. “I had a shot at the fifth from about 90 yards but instead of playing to the middle of the green I went for the pin.

“That was down to it being tight after the first round then, whereas I went out this time with a bit of a cushion.”

That was after an eight-under-par 63 – a new course record by four shots, which was his leading margin heading into the afternoon, but it disappeared after a shaky start.

After steadying the ship, though, McLeary’s qualification was never in doubt and his Open debut also looks set to be a family affair.

“My family will probably come down with me,” he revealed. “They’ve been to three events this year, though we’ve discovered that my two-year-old boy, Coben, doesn’t like being away from home.”

McKechnie, who has been attached to the Braid Hills Golf Centre for a lengthy period, beat Edinburgh-born Welshman Rhys Davies with a birdie at the first extra hole in a play-off to secure his dream ticket.

“How cool was that?” he said of an achievement that was all the more praiseworthy given that he had gone to the turn in 40 in the morning.

In contention after an opening 69, Royal Burgess star James Ross ran out of steam as he followed that with a 75. “I’m knackered,” said the amateur ace, who helped Europe win the Palmer Cup last weekend.

After making it through at North Berwick last year, West Linton’s Gareth Wright fell well short after rounds of 74 and 78.

“It’s disappointing to miss out after playing in all four rounds at Muirfield,” admitted the Edinburgh-based Welshman as he finished alongside Dunbar’s Zander Culverwell (75-77).

Five years after both came through this stage in Ayrshire to play at Turnberry, both Lloyd and Elliot Saltman failed to complete their second rounds.