Getting into The Open Championship ain’t easy. The paying punter, for instance, can’t just roll up on a whim these days. You have to stick your name in a vast, worldwide tombola and hope it comes out of the ticket ballot. Even the golf writers are stripped, searched, interrogated and deloused before we’re allowed within 600 yards of the media centre.

As for those players who are not exempt for the game’s most cherished major? Well, they plunge themselves into final qualifying, that annual 36-hole scramble that can be as fraught as a Black Friday sale when the masses gather to gouge, bite and elbow each other in a mighty melee for a cut-price Kenwood blender.

In total, 288 players assembled at four venues across the UK yesterday hoping to grab one of just 19 places on offer for this month’s showpiece at Hoylake. It’s the kind of high stakes shoot-out that could be staged at Tombstone. For LIV outlaw, Sergio Garcia, there would be no gun-slinging glory, though. The Spaniard, who had played in every Open since 1998, missed the qualifying mark at West Lancashire. Adios.

Here at Dundonald Links, meanwhile, there were giddy scenes among the local parishioners as Ayrshireman Michael Stewart topped the standings on seven-under and earned himself an Open debut. When he trundled in a birdie putt on his final hole, to complete a surge of four birdies over his last five in a 66, those watching on roared as if he’d lifted the Claret Jug.

“A lot of people have stood by me down the years,” said the Troon Welbeck member of the support he has had during a trying time in the professional ranks.

The 33-year-old enjoyed a stellar career in the unpaid game and burnished his cv with a Scottish Amateur Championship win and a Walker Cup appearance. After turning pro in 2011, Stewart found the going tough and chiselled away for so long at the coal face, his clubs were just about covered in soot. He finally earned promotion to the second-tier Challenge Tour last season and is now poised for the major stage.

“I wasn’t sure I’d ever play in a major,” admitted Stewart. “This is maybe a case of don’t give up on your dream.”

There wasn’t much time to celebrate this dream coming true, mind you. Stewart was on a bleary-eyed flight this morning to Rome for his latest stop on the Challenge Tour.

“I wasn’t going to play in this if I’m being honest,” added Stewart. “We are in Italy this week and it’s one of the biggest events on the schedule. But being in my own bed for this, I thought it was a no brainer. I’m glad I did it.”

Stewart will be joined at Hoylake by his fellow Scot, Graeme Robertson, who emerged from an epic play-off with another home hopeful, Craig Ross, to seal an Open tee-time. Even the lengthening shadows of an Ayrshire evening were beginning to question just how long things would go on for, but Robertson rolled in a raking birdie putt of some 40-feet on the fifth extra hole to finally end a tense and prolonged tussle.

The 35-year-old was supposed to be defending his Scottish Assistants’ Championship on the Tartan Tour at Crieff this week. Sacrificing that title was worth it for an emotional Robertson, who had also made a 40-foot putt on the final green of his closing round to finish on three-under and secure a play-off berth. “I’m getting older and this is a dream,” he said as he wiped away tears of jubilation. “I was thinking about Hoylake all the way round, non-stop. I can’t believe it’s going to happen.”

Connor McKinney, the Kirkcaldy-born Australian, had also been in the three-man play-off and earned his spot at the second play-off hole to leave Robertson and Ross to scrap it out for the final place. “I’m a Scossie,” he chuckled. By the time The Open starts, us Scottish golf writers will have him wreathed in the saltire.

Elsewhere at Dundonald, there would be no Open fairytale for Californian club pro, Michael Block, who has gained cult status after his share of 15th in May’s US PGA Championship. Rounds of 77 and 76 left him well out of the picture. “I suck,” he said with a smile. “Can you put that in a headline and we’re good?”