Emotional Philip Walton clinched a dream ticket to next week’s Open at Royal Birkdale and revealed: “I’m delighted for my family.”
The 1995 Ryder Cup hero, 46, grabbed one of 12 spots on offer at three qualifying venues when he topped the leaderboard at wind-lashed West Lancashire by three shots on two-under par thanks to a brilliant 70.
After losing his father Joe earlier this year, Walton was only convinced to play in the Open qualifier by his brother Allan.
And he was delighted to come through and qualify for Royal Birkdale, ten years after his last appearance in the Open there.
Walton said: “It's a long story but I am delighted for my family. My brother Alan asked me to play and it was the only tournament I wanted to do this year.
“As a former winner, I was exempt for the French Open but I didn’t bother playing. This was my big goal and I am stunned that I managed to pull it off.
“The last time I played the Open, I qualified for Birkdale in ‘98 through the qualifier at Hillside. It's great to be back."
Tied for fifth overnight, Walton had four birdies and a bogey in the first six holes to turn in 33 and while he bogeyed the 15th, he still finished three shots clear of Scot Barry Hume.
Walton explained: “I drove the ball great and I had a great caddie in Stevie Byrne on one of the most demanding courses I have ever walked on.
“It is much harder than all the courses round here, even Birkdale. It was a day for just hanging in there as the wind made it very tough concentrating.
“I am looking forward to it now and the Irish PGA this week as well. There is no pressure on me in the Open, but I am not going to Birkdale to make up the numbers. The more wind we get, the better.”