Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier hailed as a success
 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifiers Neil O'Briain, Simon Thornton, Cian McNamara and Colm Moriarty at Rosapenna on Sunday

Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifiers Neil O'Briain, Simon Thornton, Cian McNamara and Colm Moriarty at Rosapenna on Sunday

Tulfarris' Simon Thornton hailed the inaugural Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifier as a massive success but confessed he'd still like to see the winner of the domestic Order of Merit awarded an exemption.

The former European Tour winner won one of four coveted spots in this week's $7 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin when he claimed the €40,000 qualifier at Rosapenna on Sunday. Scores

The Newcastle native (41) beat Old Conna's Neil O'Briain in a playoff for the €6,000 top prize at Rosapenna as Glasson's Colm Moriarty came third and Monkstown professional Cian McNamara edged out Waterford's Kevin Phelan in another playoff for the final spot after they tied for fourth.

In previous years, the top six finishers on the PGA in Ireland's Order of Merit got to tee it up in the following season's Irish Open.

 Michael McCumiskey (PGA in Ireland Regional Manager), ohn Casey (Director, Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort), Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC), Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel), Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort), Neil O'Briain (Old Conna) and Liam Breen (Captain, Rosapenna GC) Picture  Martin Fleming Photography

Michael McCumiskey (PGA in Ireland Regional Manager), ohn Casey (Director, Rosapenna Hotel & Golf Resort), Cian McNamara (Monkstown GC), Colm Moriarty (Glasson Hotel), Simon Thornton (Tulfarris Golf Resort), Neil O'Briain (Old Conna) and Liam Breen (Captain, Rosapenna GC) Picture Martin Fleming Photography

But the advent of the Rolex Series means that all Irish PGA professionals, six amateurs nominated by the GUI and a host of Irish mini tours regulars got the chance to play for just four spots alongside the superstars in a new 36-hole qualifying event last weekend.

Thornton said: "The qualifying has been brilliant. It creates a bit of buzz, a bit of promotion for the Irish Region, and it creates something for Rosapenna.

"I think the idea of the qualifier is very, very good. But I do think the Order of Merit winner should get one slot – perhaps we should be playing off for three – but that's a personal opinion.

"It has created a bit of interest amongst the local professionals that we all have a chance to have a go at it, rather than just the boys that play during the summer.

"There is the added fact that the boys who have done well at the time are now playing in the Irish Open rather than someone who played well last year. I think it is wholly positive."

Limerick native McNamara, who pulled out of Final Qualifying for The Open today to prepare for Ballyliffin after winning his place, also believes the Qualifier is a plus.

"It's a huge event for us and I think it's very fair," McNamara said. "It gives everyone a fair crack of the whip — guys like myself who don't get an opportunity to compete on the Region, the amateurs and the other tournament professionals.

"All round, I don't think anyone can complain. I suppose it's nice in a way to see that it's not a closed shop – that someone like me, a club professional can reap the benefits of the system."