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Former Amateur Champions looking good in Open Qualification

Finland's Mikko Ilonen is one of three former British amateur champions poised to seal places at next week's British Open in local final qualifying on Tuesday.

Ilonen, who claimed the British amateur title at Hoylake in 2000, fired a three-under-par 69 to head 96 hopefuls in the opening round at Conwy on Monday.

The leading three players after Tuesday's second round will automatically qualify for the Open championship, to be played from July 20-23 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, north-west England.

Local final qualifying is also taking place at Formby, Wallasey and West Lancashire with three Open berths on offer at each venue.

Briton Graeme Storm, the 1999 amateur champion, was joint leader at West Lancashire, a four-under-par 68 putting him level with compatriots Andrew Clarke and amateur Jack Hiluta.

Fellow Englishman Jim Payne, twice a winner on the European Tour and the leading amateur in the 1991 British Open at Royal Birkdale, led the way at Formby with a five-under-par 67.

Payne was voted European Tour rookie of the year in 1992 but quit the circuit in 2000 after suffering serious back problems. The 36-year-old is now club professional at Southport & Ainsdale.

Britain's Gary Day, appearing in local final qualifying for the eighth time, headed the field at Wallasey by two shots after firing a five-under-par round of 67.

A total of 384 players are competing at the four qualifying venues for 12 places in the third major championship of the year.

July 11, 2006


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