Suddenly, Morpeth is the centre of the golfing universe. Garrick Porteous, one of its more noted residents after winning The Amateur Championship at the weekend, was among the spectators at yesterday’s Regional Qualifying for the Open.
David Clark and Steve Fawcitt, assistants past and present at the Morpeth club, were among the 10 players who went through – in Clark’s case after a play-off – to take their place in Local Final Qualifying on July 2.
Porteous arrived two steps ahead of the field – winning the Amateur has already put him in the Open.
Yesterday’s tournament was hosted by the Northumberland club, one of the two Porteous belongs to, and he brought along the Amateur Championship trophy plus another cup he has won this season, the Scottish Open.
Both the Northumberland and the club Porteous represents in amateur tournaments, Bamburgh Castle, have awarded him free life membership, a fitting gesture to a 23-year-old who represents himself and his sport impeccably.
Understandably, both Clark and Fawcitt were only too happy to pose with Porteous for a “Mighty Morpeth” picture for The Journal.
Another player to make it through was James Wilkinson from the Brampton club in Carlisle, the son of the Brampton professional, Stewart Wilkinson, coming through the play-off.
Clark and Wilkinson were not given the most arduous of passages when six players went into sudden death for four remaining spots at LFQ.
At the first extra hole, Scottish amateur Kyle McClung three-putted on the 18th green and when the same hole was played again, Alex Belt, the Yorkshireman representing De Vere, was eliminated for the same reason.
Wilkinson had made a fine comeback in signing for his level-par 72, having slumped to three over after seven holes on a course where it is difficult to force birdies.
He birdied eight, nine and 14, where he sank a 25ft putt. His birdie at eight pleased him most, a 142-yard nine iron into the wind left a 12-footer.
“I knew if I could find the best side of the green, I could make the putt,” he said. “The greens at the Park are absolutely fantastic.”
Clark was on course to finish first when he was four under with six to go, having eagled the ninth with a 200-yard six iron to five feet.
But he became so wayward off the tee he gave all the shots back to the course, throwing in a three-putt.
However, he lived to fight another day and current Morpeth assistant Fawcett, at 27 a relatively new force in regional golf, signed for one-under 71.
He said: “I got away with it a bit out there, my mishits seemed to go straight”, although his round was not without its epic moments, such as a three iron struck to within six inches of a hole in one at the 173-yard 10th.
Two professionals with two national PGA titles each to their name missed out. Cumbria’s Craig Goodfellow, just back off holiday, paid the price of no practice rounds with an 80. Close House’s Jonathan Lupton, one over after 16, had to go for it but gave away three shots over the last two holes.
QUALIFIERS (* denotes amateurs, par 72)
69 Paul McKechnie (Braid Hills)
70 *Will Bowe (Workington), Zach Saltman (Archerfield Links), Yasushi Nakazaki (Japan)
71 Steven Fawcitt (Morpeth), * Jack Lampjin (Ilkley)
72 James Wilkinson (Brampton), David Clark (Morpeth), Kristoffer Bengtsson (Sweden), Christopher Kelly (Cawder).
72 (lost out in play-off among six players for four qualifying places) Alex Belt (De Vere), * Kyle McClung (Wigtownshire County)
73 *Lloyd Bond (Hartlepool), George Cowan, Westerhope, *Martin McCririck South Shields
74 *Ricky Lee (Tyneside) *Richard Aisbitt (Brancepeth Castle), Andy Scrimshaw (Close House), *Andrew Minnikin (Northumberland club), Alex Wrigley (Hartlepool), Martyn Jobling (Parklands).
75 *Dan Beeson (Tyneside
76 *Kris Gray (Northumberland club), Steven Harrison (Stocksfield), Jonathan Lupton (Close House)
77 Mathew Webb (Golf Foundation)
79 Ross Crowe (Westerhope), Richard Robson-Crosby (Ponteland)
80 Glyn Jones (South Shields), Simon Calvert (The Darlington), Craig Goodfellow (Penrith Driving Range), * Alex Dixon (City of Newcastle)
81 James Cousins (Darlington), Michael Nesbit (Westerhope)
82 Andrew Richardson (Middlesbrough)
84 Mark Penny (Morpeth)
87 *Angus Montgomery (Middlesbrough)