Grant Forrest is delighted to have teed up a huge “bonus” by securing his second Open Championship appearance at Carnoustie in a fortnight’s time.
The 25-year-old earned his spot in golf’s oldest major by finishing second in the first final qualifier to be held at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian.
He shot rounds of 67 and 69 for a six-under-par total, one behind 19-year-old Scottish Amateur champion Sam Locke from Stonehaven as English pro Thomas Curtis claimed the third spot up for grabs.
Forrest’s main objective this season is to graduate to the European Tour and he’s on course after a strong opening half to the Challenge Tour campaign.
But he’s relishing his second taste of playing in the Claret Jug event, having still been an amateur when he qualified for the 2013 tournament at Muirfield.
“I remember last time it took a while to settle in and this might be the same,” he admitted, smiling, at the end of a long and tiring day under a baking-hot sun.
“I’m just happy with the way I played, I was excellent tee to green and had just a few errors with the short stick on the back nine coming in, but overall really happy with the way I played.
“I’m playing on the Challenge in Italy next week but not this week in Prague. Carnoustie is a bonus and ten per cent of the points count on the Challenge Tour as well, that’s a new addition.
“Challenge Tour is what I’m concentrating on, and it’s what my focus is for the rest of the season.”
Forrest shared the lead with Swede Sebastian Soderberg and Spanish amateur Eugenio Lopez-Chacarra after his morning effort that contained six birdies.
He then stormed into the outright lead after a burst of four birdies in five holes at the end of his front nine in the afternoon before dropping a shot at the fifth - his 14th.
Playing a couple of groups behind, Locke chipped in from a greenside bunker for an eagle at the same hole as he claimed victory, but it was still job done for Forrest.
“I think before last week I’d only played here twice since the new holes have gone in, but I like it,” he said of the Tom Doak-designed course near Gullane.
“It’s playing really well, firm and burned out, reminding me a bit of Muirfield five years ago and you really have to be in control of the golf ball.”
Playing in the same group as 1998 champion Mark O’Meara, Forrest opened with a 73 on that major debut in 2013 before bowing out early following a second-round 86.
“At Carnoustie I feel I’ll be much better equipped now that five years ago. Then I was more about the experience than anything else and getting in that environment. This year I feel like I could do something.
“When you turn up as an amateur it’s all new to you, big crowds and big attention. It’s more just being in the environment and being comfortable in that, that’s huge.
“Coming out as a pro in general, playing there and knowing you deserve to be there and you’re good enough to be there. That’s the biggest thing.
“Also, I got to the final of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie in 2015 and I played it a lot that week. I love Carnoustie, it’s one of my favourite courses. It’s really notoriously tough as well. I look forward to it.”
So, too, is Locke, who is mentored by Paul Lawrie, the 1999 winner at the Angus venue, and works in the coffee shop at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre outside Aberdeen.
“I was working yesterday and I’m back at work tomorrow,” he revealed after upstaging the pros on the East Lothian coast. “I suppose I work for Marian (Lawrie’s wife) rather than Paul, so I’ll need to ask her for the week off.
‘I’ll be back in tomorrow but I have Scottish Open qualifying at the weekend at Longniddry.
“It would be pretty cool to pull that off and play in those two events back to back.”