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Goswick’s Longest Day: Michael Henson’s 68 Paces a Packed Field in Open Qualifying

June 27, 2023

Man on Form (photo above) — Darlington’s Michael Henson has good reason to smile. He just posted a 68 to lead the field at Goswick in Regional Qualifying for the 151st Open Championship.

It took more than 13 hours of first-rate golf played by some 135 local professionals and top amateurs, including a rather spectacular extra playoff hole, on Monday. But Goswick Golf Club was more than up to the challenge of Regional Qualifying for the 151st Open Championship, identifying eight very worthy players who will now advance to Final Qualifying to be hosted by Dundonald Links on 4 July.


The prize at the end of this arduous journey? A spot in the field for golf’s final major of the year to be played at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake 16-23 July.


Leading the way was Darlington’s Michael Henson who fired a 4-under-par 68 in the third-to-last group out of 45 on the day. His balanced scorecard featured three birdies and just one bogey on each side. His final birdie, on the par-5 17th hole, pushed him ahead of two players who came in on 69: Morpeth’s David Clark and Royal Burgess’ Cameron Adam.


Henson, who plays out of Rockcliffe Hall, credited a hot putter for his first breakthrough at Goswick in four tries.


“I 3-putted the 2nd hole and then I didn’t miss another makeable putt the rest of the way,” he said. “The putts just kept going in. So it was good fun.”

Back at It — Morpeth’s David Clark finds the cup for birdie on the par-5 17th hole en route to a 69 and a spot in Final Qualifying at Dundonald Links on 4 July. Clark led the field a year ago with a 67.

Clark, the top qualifier at Goswick a year ago with a 67 and a member of the club, this time offset a 37 on the front with a 32 on the back — thanks in large part to an eagle on the par-5 11th hole.


“The wind was just really tricky out there today,” he said. “If you missed the fairway and were going downwind, it was very difficult to control the ball. It just ran for miles. And the greens were great. But if the wind was blowing the same direction as the slopes, the putts were really, really quick. So, I was in defence mode a lot of the time.”


Adam advanced on his second attempt at Goswick, missing out on a playoff by two shots in 2022. He was born and raised in Scotland and still calls the Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh his golf home. But he now spends 10 months of the year in the States, having just completed his second year at Northwestern University in Chicago. Its most famous graduate within the golfing world: European Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald.


Adam was in complete control on the front nine, hitting every green in regulation and rolling in birdie putts on the 2nd and 3rd holes. Two more birdies on the back helped to offset his lone bogey on the 14th. But it could have been even better.

Heading for Home — Royal Burgess’ Cameron Adam tees off into the wind on the 18th hole. His 69 earned him a spot in Final Qualifying.

“I missed birdie putts from four feet on the 17th and 18th, so that was disappointing,” Adam said. “Still, it was a good result. I’ve been playing well lately but not scoring well. That’s the funny thing about golf. You can hit a lot of fairways and greens and then one bad shot can blow it up for you. So it was nice to get a decent score today.”


Three more players — Jack McDonald of Schloss Roxburghe, Paul Reilly of Dunbar and Jordan Clements of Northcliffe – also punched their tickets to Dundonald with 2-under-par 70s.


That left five more on 71 to play off for the last two remaining qualifying spots: Russell Chrystie of Fairmont St Andrews, Graeme Robertson of Fairways Golf Studios, Morgan Blythe of Hexham, Ryan Dixon of Castle Eden and Ryan Riley of Rockcliffe Hall. All teed off the par-4 10th and, amazingly, that’s all that was needed to seal the deal.

Sudden Exhilaration — Above, Ryan Riley holes out this sand wedge approach on the first and only playoff hole to earn his berth in Final Qualifying. Below, he retrieves his ball from the hole.

First, Riley holed out his second shot from114 yards with a downwind sand wedge for eagle. Then, moments later, Blythe rolled in a 20-footer for birdie. The best the other three players could manage was par.

What made Riley’s feat even more remarkable is that he hit the opening shot of the qualifier at 6:56 am, posted his score around 11 am and then had to head immediately back to his home in Darlington as his caddie needed to address a family emergency. Initially, Riley didn’t plan to return. But he changed his mind once it was confirmed that he would be in the playoff set to begin at 8 pm. So, round trip, he drove an extra four hours (including traffic) just to hit two shots. But, no doubt, those are two shots he’ll never forget.

 Taking Dead Aim — Goswick’s Daniel Bullen fires for the flag on the par-4 3rd hole.

Also deserving of special mention is Daniel Bullen. Fresh off winning his third consecutive Goswick Club Championship, he bounced back from a tough front nine to finish birdie-par-eagle-birdie on his last four holes and post an even-par 72. That’s enough to keep him in the running for Final Qualifying as an alternate, if for some reason some of the qualifiers are unable to compete.

The Eagle Has Landed — Bullen rolls in this putt from off the fringe for eagle on the par-5 17th en route to an even-par 72.

Click here to view the complete scoreboard.


The other big winner on the day? That would have to be Goswick. It earned rave reviews from all of the participants as a tough but fair links test presented to a very high standard. A tip of the cap to Course Manager Ryan McCulloch and his team a job very well done.


Regional qualifying will return to the James Braid-designed masterpiece in 2024, the last year of the club’s current run as one of just 15 such venues so designated by the R&A.


For now, we wish all eight of the qualifiers the best of luck at Dundonald. We will be keeping a close eye on your progress.