Justin Harding was elated with his three-stroke victory on Wednesday at The Open Championship’s International Final Qualifying Africa, which took place at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.
“I’m so happy to get through – there are about 70 players here and a lot of them have won tournaments, both on the European and Sunshine Tours, and to get one of only three spots is incredible,” he said.
The 36-hole tournament offers up three spots at the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield and Harding claimed the first with his 14-under-par total. He’ll tee it up against the greatest at golf’s oldest major, which starts on the 17th July.
“All of us as youngsters avidly watched The Open over the years and I’m really looking forward to my first major. With Ernie Els defending it will be a special one, and I’ve heard that Muirfield is a phenomenal place, so everything feels perfect right now,” he said.
The 27-year-old found his groove during the two rounds at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s East Course, carding 66 and 64 for his impressive 14-under-par haul.
“To play in The Open is an experience every golfer wants to have. I don’t really have words for it, but I’m sure it will be special. No doubt my dad is already booking the flights, and I can’t wait to enjoy the week!” he said.
Eduardo de la Riva began with an eagle at the first and rocketed to the turn at five-under-par for the day. He finished the round in 66 blows to take the second spot with his 11-under-par total.
“This is a dream! I am so excited for my chance to play, and I have some good tournaments before we go to The Open, so I want to prepare my game for July,” said the Spaniard.
“For the longest time I have wanted to play The Open, and to finally do it is great, especially amongst so many good South African players. This was a tough race, this week, but the course was perfect and my game was really good, so I’m happy that it all worked out so well.”
Darryn Lloyd did not have the comfort of spare shots as he headed down the stretch, and had to hole a monster 30-footer on the 16th in order to move to eight-under and avoid a playoff. The 23-year-old currently lives in England and was excited about his chance to play in the 142nd Open Championship.
“It’s always been a goal for me to play in The Open, and I’m really glad I could use this opportunity. I live in England and that adds to the importance of this tournament for me – it’s really amazing that I’ll be playing at Muirfield!” he said.