Atherstone’s Steve Webster and Wolverhampton’s Peter Baker have qualified for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale after coming through the European Qualifiers at Sunningdale.
Webster claimed the last of 16 automatic qualifying spots after a 67 and 68 left him five under par but Baker was in a six-man play-off for the final two spots. Baker and fellow Englishman Simon Dyson emerged victorious over Ross McGowan and Chris Rodgers, also of England, Alastair Forsyth, of Scotland, and Ryder Cup star Jose Maria Olazabal, of Spain.
Forsyth and McGowan were knocked out at the first extra hole after failing to get up and down, and Rodgers went at the next with a bogey. On the third hole, Olazabal drove into the rough with a five-wood and was forced to lay up, eventually playing his third from behind where Dyson’s monstrous drive had finished. Baker was also safely on in two, leaving Olazabal a 20ft putt to stay alive, a putt which he left short.
Qualification is a fantastic achievement for 40-year-old Baker, who is 150th in the European Order of Merit, and it will also be symbolic for Webster.
The 33-year-old sprung to prominence at the 1995 Open when he was crowned the top amateur and won the silver medal after finishing tied 24th. Based on that achievement, he turned professional that year.
There was disappointment for fellow Midlanders Robert Rock, from Lichfield, Tom Whitehouse, of Coleshill, and his cousin Sam Walker, of Sutton Coldfield. All three failed to finish their two rounds.
Qualifying with Baker and Webster were Simon Wakefield, Ariel Canete, of Argentina, Johan Edfors, Pelle Edberg and Alexander Noren, of Sweden, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet and Gregory Bourdy, of France, Ross Fisher, Paul Waring, Anthony Wall, Jose-Filipe Lima, of Portugal, and Martin Wiegele and Phillip Archer.