Tour pros have no business at local qualifiers

The minnows had their day and made the most of it.

That’s just the way it should be.

Most of the final places for the Open Championship were decided June 29, when four venues near St. Andrews hosted 36 holes of Local Final Qualifying.

Kingsbarns, Scotscraig, Fairmont St. Andrews and Ladybank offered 12 places – three spots from each – to the little guys intent on dreaming of playing in the Open.

The wannabes didn’t disappoint.

Three amateurs earned places into the Open Championship to be held July 15-18 over the Old Course. Laurie Canter, the South African Amateur champion, earned a spot at Fairmont St. Andrews, Jamie Abbot at Kingsbarns and Tyrrell Hatton at Ladybank. Of the remaining nine players, seven spots – Zane Scotland, Colm Moriarty, Tom Whitehouse, Simon Edwards, Paul Streeter, Gary Clark and Steve Tiley – went to players without full European Tour cards.

Phillip Archer and Mark Haastrup were the only two tour players to earn spots into the game’s oldest championship.

I’m against players such as Archer and Haastrup with tour cards playing in LFQ. There are so many ways for tour pros to get into the Open Championship and just one way for the minnows. Tour pros can get in via the world rankings, money lists, mini-money lists, top finishes in selective tournaments and from International Final Qualifying at four spots around the world.

The minnows have only one route into the Open. They have to survive 18 holes of regional qualifying and 36-holes of LFQ to take their place against the world’s elite.

And they have only three spots from fields of 90 players. So it seems a shame they can be denied by tour players with so many options open to them.

Among the European Tour pros in LFQ were the likes of Michael Campbell, Barry Lane, Andrew Oldcorn, Peter Fowler, Joakim Haeggman, Jamie Elson and Jarmo Sandelin.

Over the years, the Open Championship has become something of a closed shop for the minnows.

My first Open was 1989 at Royal Troon, when Mark Calcavecchia won. In those days, final qualifying took place on Sunday and Monday before the Open, with 16 spots available at each of the four venues.

It was exciting to see club pros, amateurs and mini-tour players play against the top professionals. “That was effectively our Open Championship,” said Paul Anderson, head professional at Berkshire Golf Club. “You wanted to get through regional qualifying in the hopes that you got a good draw with a European Tour pro.”

With the European Tour pros having their own international qualifying, it means Anderson and players like him are more likely to turn up at LFQ and play with fellow club pros rather than Ryder Cup players.

And there’s less chance of making it into the Open, with only three spots as opposed to the old 16.

By the way, Anderson disagrees with me. He still wants to see tour pros play in LFQ. I don’t.

Let the big boys try to qualify from the plethora of methods available to them, but LFQ should be for the little guys.

They have only 12 chances. All 12 spots should go to them. Not to tour players.

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