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ILKLEY member James Hepworth is one step from competing in the Open after finishing first in regional qualifying at Moortown.

The Burley-in-Wharfedale player’s two-under-par 69 saw him claim one of the ten spots available for the final qualifying phase on Tuesday.

And having reached that stage six times before, the 39-year-old is hoping experience will pay dividends when a further three places at each of four venues are up for grabs for the main event at Royal Liverpool on July 17-20.

Hepworth, who was expecting Hillside to be his allocated course, has had several near misses in the past, including defeat in a play-off featuring Graeme McDowell, Simon Dyson and Robert Rock.

The former Bradford Golf Club junior, who is currently working as a teaching professional at Shay Grange in Heaton, was also leading at the halfway mark at St Anne’s Old Links in 2012 but a second-round 75 followed his opening 66 and a place at Royal Lytham eluded him.

Making it to Hoylake would be the ideal tonic as Hepworth looks to regain a European Tour card - which he held in 2004 and 2007 - later in the year at Qualifying School.

Will Whiteoak (Shipley) and Liam O’Neill (Cookridge Hall) failed to progress from regional qualifying at Clitheroe.