Gareth Maybin will play in his second major next month after clinching one of nine places in the Open Championship on offer from International Final Qualifying Europe at Sunningdale.
The Ballyclare player, 32, opened with a three under 67 on the Old Course and added a level par 69 on the New to finish joint third behind in-form American Brooks Koepka on three under par and seal his place in the field for Muirfield.
Maybin qualified for the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, finishing tied for 63rd behind compatriot Graeme McDowell on 16 over par.
However, he will be hoping for better at Muirfield from July 14-21 where he joins McDowell, Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry.
Several Irish players can join that sextet through Local Final Qualifying next week (July 2) with amateurs Kevin Phelan and Gavin Moynihan (exempt via the World Amateur Rankings) joined by seven qualifiers from Monday’s Regional Qualifying sites.
At The Island, Old Conna’s Neil O Briain shot a 70 to top the qualifiers from Bushfoot’s David Jones (73), Derry’s Michael McGeady (73), The Island’s David Rawluk (74), Team Ireland player Brendan McCarroll (74) and Killarney’s Daniel Sugrue (75), who played in the 2004 Open at Royal Troon but missed the cut by three shots.
Castlerock’s Aaron Kearney was one of 17 qualifiers at the Buckinghamshire with a 71.
As for IFQ at Sunningdale, it appears clear that 23-year-old Floridian Koepka can do no wrong.
On Sunday he won on the Challenge Tour for the third time this term, securing automatic promotion to the European Tour.
Rounds of 69 and 65 left him with a 5-under-par total of 134, one shot clear of England’s Oliver Fisher and two clear of Maybin, Spain’s Alvaro Quiros, Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and England’s Richard McEvoy.
Sweden’s Niclas Fasth and Scott Jamieson from Scotland also secured spots at Muirfield while Argentina’s Estanislao Goya took the final spot after a four-man play-off with Ross Fisher, David Drysdale, and Alejandro Canizares.
Having managed only two hours’ sleep before taking a 6.30am flight from Scotland, Koepka said he was tired but delighted to have qualified for golf’s oldest Major Championship.
“It was a long day,” he said. “I was in a lot of heather and I kind of felt like I was in it all day. I didn’t hit it that great but I just tried to relax and hang in there. I putted really well and made some key putts on the second 18.
“It’s awesome to play in The Open, it’s what you prepare your game to play in. Any Major is special but The Open is up there. Everybody wants to win it.”
Michael Hoey missed out on a place in the play-off at Sunningdale by two shots as rounds of 71 and 69 left him on one over.
European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley was five off the pace on four over after rounds of 71 and 72 while Peter Lawrie withdrew after opening with a five over 74 on the New Course.