Yorkshire golf: McCarthy and Firth both stand one step from Open

Wednesday, 22nd June 2016, 6:01 am
Yorkshire Boys champion Tom Gray pictured pitching to a green in the Open Championship Regional Qualifier on his home course (Picture: Simon Hulme).

FOR a fraction of a second, Nick McCarthy was heading for a second consecutive win on his home course of Moortown in the Open Championship Regional Qualifying.

That was the time it took for his ball to spin up and out of the hole at the 18th. It left him with a 20ft birdie putt, which he missed, instead of allowing him to write down an eagle two on his card for the 434-yard par-4.

McCarthy was not too displeased as he and Moortown club-mate Ben Firth both claimed spots in Final Qualifying for the season’s third major.

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EuroPro Tour player McCarthy carded a one-under-par 70 and amateur Firth a level-par 71.

Their scores were similar, but paradoxically the former had the marginally better return of the two while feeling he “didn’t play that well” while Firth’s summary was that – despite being three over going out and three under coming home – he had played well throughout the round.

McCarthy is now through to Final Qualifying for the third time while Firth has made it at his first attempt.

“I had a wedge for my approach at the last and I was told the ball went down the hole and spun back out,” said McCarthy.

“I didn’t see it go in, but I heard it clatter the pin.”

After a bogey at hole two, he had birdied three with a wedge to 10ft and then canned a 45ft putt from off the green at the par-3 fourth.

“I wasn’t playing that great, but I putted well – like with the one at the fourth – and that kept me in it,” he said.

He has expressed a preference to play at Hillside next Tuesday with Woburn his second option.

Firth’s choices are the same and as he reflected on the excellent job he had done at his home track on Monday, he apportioned credit to Leeds Golf Centre professional Helen Searle, who caddied for him.

Knowing that he probably needed a level-par 71 to claim one of six qualifying spots – a ‘guesstimate’ that proved spot on – he three-putted four times in an outward 39.

But he trimmed seven shots of that total on the way in with birdies at 11, 13 and 15, and said: “Helen helped with calming me down after being three over and said, ‘Let’s just keep it the same’.

“I played well all the way round, but I struggled with the pace of the greens on the front nine, but then I holed a few on the back nine to make up for it.

“The back nine was seven shots different, but it didn’t feel like it. Once I was three over I relaxed because I had nothing to lose. I just kept hitting greens and giving myself chances.”

Tom Gray, the new Yorkshire Boys’ champion who is also a member at Moortown, shot a five-over-par 76.

He was four over after eight holes, but did well to play the next 10 holes in just one over with nine pars and one bogey.