The 72-year-old Argentinian Vicente Fernandez beat his age by two shots while two prominent US broadcasters also came through final qualifying for the first Senior Open Championship to be staged at the Old Course, St Andrews later this week.
Fernandez, often standing barefoot as he battled fatigue in his early morning round, shot a one-under 70 in one of the first groups out at Scotscraig Golf Club in Tayport, and held on to one of six qualifying spots all day.
The four-time European Tour winner – his last victory was in the English Open in 1992 – played the back nine first and started bogey-double bogey, but he quickly regained his poise and came back in just 33 strokes despite the strong winds and tiredness.
The veteran, who was a Champions Tour regular until 2015, removed his shoes between shots on the back nine to release tension in his back.
“When the ground is soft I sometimes walk between shots like this,” he said. “Today it was just when I was standing still.” He suffered polio as a child and still has some effects of it in his legs.
The Argentinian is a former winner on the Old Course, at the 1979 Colgate PGA Championship, the European Tour flagship event now based at Wentworth.
That week he shot level par figures over four rounds to beat a quality field containing Gary Player – who was tied for second – Severiano Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd.
Memories of that victory and the encouragement of family and friends convinced Fernandez to return to try and qualify for the Senior Open this year.
“I’ve worked very hard to be ready for this chance. The greens were very true and my back nine was the reward,” he added.
Also qualifiying at Scotscraig was Golf Channel analyst Brandell Chamblee, who bettered Fernandez’ score by a shot.
Chamblee, a winner on the PGA Tour during his playing career, came straight from working at the Open at Carnoustie to qualify.
Another US broadcaster, former NBC commentator Gary Koch, was tied for the lead among the qualifiers at Lundin Golf Club. Andres Rosa of Spain was medallist at Fairmont St Andrews with a one-under 71.
Former Amateur champion Gary Wolstenholme was one of the seven qualifiers at Ladybank, along with ex-PGA Tour players Bob Ford and Tommy Tolles.