Steven sets his sights on Open glory

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HOLYTOWN golfer Steven O’Hara will rub shoulders with the world’s elite next week after clinching a place in the field for the British Open at Royal Lytham.

The Colville Park player came through a nerve-wracking play-off in last week’s qualifying competition at West Lancashire to secure his first appearance in golf’s oldest major.

O’Hara, a team-mate of top stars Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald in the 2001 Walker Cup, will be among at least six Scots taking part in the event which starts next Thursday.

The former Scottish Amateur champion shot rounds of 70 and 69 to finish tied with American duo Scott Pinckney and Marty Jertson as well as Welsh amateur Richard Benthan.

With only two spots up for grabs, Pinckney birdied the first to seal the first of them. Bentham then dropped out with a bogey at the next before O’Hara went through with a par at the fifth extra hole.

Afterwards O’Hara, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday two days before the tournament starts, said: “It’s a boyhood dream to play in The Open, having watched it on TV.

“I’ve played Lytham plenty of times in the Lytham Trophy and played well there plenty of times. It suits my game so I am looking forward to it.”

After struggling in the early part of the year O’Hara’s form picked up in last month’s Welsh Open, where he finished in the top 50, and he managed to maintain that in last week’s qualifying.

He said: “I hit the ball great all day. I three-putted the first out of nowhere and thought ‘here we go’. But I didn’t miss many greens and played solidly.

“In the play-off it was a case of just trying to hit the middle of the greens. It was not a time for Hollywood shots.

“It was really special to have my dad [Charlie] caddying for me. We used to spend a lot of time together when I was an amateur and today brought back all sorts of boyhood memories.”