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Noel Murray and Sean Whiffin seal Galgorm Castle entry

By Peter Hutcheon

Masserene's Noel Murray has played his way into the field for the Northern Ireland Open Challenge at Galgorm Castle at the end of the month. He needed a play-off at the qualifier at Hilton Templepatrick last night to overcome Allen Park's Peter McCarroll for the third and final place on offer for the European Challenge Tour event being played from August 28 to 31.

It was contested over the 18th hole – which played its part in one of the longest play-offs ever seen in the history of the game to decide the outcome of the 2007 Northern Ireland Ladies Open when it took eight extra holes to decide the outcome.

This time only two trips back to the tee box were required as Murray came up with an eagle three at the second time of asking which McCarroll couldn't match after they had both made birdie fours on the first extra hole.

He set himself up with a perfect drive, leaving a five iron to the tee which he hit to 15 feet for the eagle three that earned him the final place in the Galgorm Castle field.

England's Sean Whiffin, from The Hertfordshire club, took the leading spot in the pre-qualifier with a four under round of 68.

Mullingar's James Quinlivan was three shots adrift in second place after hitting a 71.

"I putted really well, mainly down to my work with Dermott Parker of Sveye Sports Vision," winner Whiffin said.

The three men join four Northern Ireland elite amateurs in the field who have been nominated by the Golfing Union of Ireland.

They are reigning Irish Amateur Close champion John-Ross Galbraith from Whitehead, East of Ireland champion Colm Campbell from Warrenpoint and Irish internationals Cormac Sharvin from Ardglass and local favourite Ballymena's Dermot McElroy.

Michael Hoey, Galgorm's touring professional, will also be in the field for this month's tournament.

Thomas Bjorn hopes he can seal his Ryder Cup place on home soil this week at a venue where he claimed his first professional win.

The 43-year-old is relying on the world points list, but looks to have done enough to make the European team which will defend the trophy at Gleneagles in September0.

"I feel like I've played a lot of golf and I would like to think by the end of Denmark I'm set for the Ryder Cup, but if I'm not I'll have to reconsider," Bjorn said.

The inaugural Made In Denmark event has sold out with more than 70,000 spectators expected at Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, where Bjorn won on the Challenge Tour in 1995.

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