AMATEUR aces James Ross and Paul Ferrier are among the Capital golfers two rounds away from joining the big guns in next month’s Open.
The duo passed yesterday’s regional qualifying tests along with three local professionals – Gareth Wright, Paul McKechnie and Mark Kerr.
They now go forward to next week’s local final qualifying at four courses in Lancashire, where a dozen spots in the world’s oldest major will be up for grabs.
Royal Burgess star Ross shared top spot at Bruntsfield Links, where he first underlined his potential when reaching the final of the Lothians Championship five years ago.
His four-under-par 67 was matched by fellow amateur James White (Lundin) and Peter Latimer, a former Scottish international who is just about to start his PGA training at Felixstowe Ferry.
It’s the second year running that Ross has made it to local final qualifying and he reckons the experience last time will prove invaluable.
“When I was coming down the stretch last year I thought I was miles away from qualifying so started pushing it and dropped some shots,” he said.
“As it turned out, one or two birdies would have been fine so I will be trying to learn from that.”
Last year’s Scottish Amateur semi-finalist had Kenny Walker, the former Royal Burgess player who now lives in Thailand, on his bag at Bruntsfield Links and praised his “calming influence”.
Ross added: “My ball striking was solid today and my only bogey – at the tenth – was caused by a careless three-putt.”
He was joined among the eight qualifiers from the Capital course by Wright after he survived a five-man play-off for the final three spots.
The West Linton pro looked set to sail through without needing to be involved in any nerve-wracking shoot-out when he started birdie-birdie-eagle. But the fireworks stopped after that and he eventually signed for a 69 – one of five players to finish on that mark.
“It was a solid round spoilt by some poor decision-making,” said Wright, who was able to heave a sigh of relief after coming through at the first play-off hole with a birdie before he was joined by fellow Tartan Tour pro Chris Kelly and Kirkhill amateur Paul Shields.
McKechnie, who is attached to Braid Hills, avoided the play-off after he holed an eight-foot birdie putt at the last for a 68, matching English amateur Tom Hayes.
Man of the moment Ferrier – the Baberton man reached the semi-finals in last week’s Amateur Championship – and Kerr both qualified at Goswick, near Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Despite the fact he’d never played the course before Ferrier shot a 68 to finish fourth in an event that had seven spots up for grabs.
“It has been a great couple of weeks,” admitted the 23-year-old, who got his challenge up and running by chipping in at the third and also signed off with a birdie.
“I’m feeling good about everything at the moment and my head is also in the right place.
“I’m riding on a wave and I want to stay on that as long as I can.”
Before the local final qualifying, which takes place over 36 holes next Tuesday, he’s defending the East of Scotland Open title at Lundin this weekend.
Kerr’s trip over the Border proved fruitful for the second year running as he birdied the first hole in a four-man play-off involving the players on 69.
“I was on a real low after missing the cut in last week’s Scottish Challenge but I managed to go out and play really well today,” said the Marriott Dalmahoy man.
Playing in the second last group, he birdied the last to get into the play-off then sealed his spot by hitting an 8-iron second shot to eight feet and knocking in the putt. It’s the third year running that Kerr has made it to local final qualifying and the fifth time in total.
“I know what it’s all about at the next stage,” he added. “It would be a dream come true to play in the Open but you need a bit of good fortune at local final qualifying with only three spots on offer at each of the venues.”
Musselburgh amateur Cameron Marr matched Kerr’s effort on the Northumberland course but, agonisingly, he then missed out in the play-off.
Back at Bruntsfield Links, Murrayfield pro Johnnie Cliff was left kicking himself after a closing bogey cost him a place in the play-off.
“I got a flyer out of the rough with my second and I had a feeling it would be one too many,” he admitted.