SYDNEY (Dec. 1, 2013) – Next year’s British Open will have a little Oklahoma Christian flavor to it.
OC golf alum – and soon-to-be Athletic Hall of Famer – Rhein Gibson capped a strong showing at the Australian Open with a final-round 69 on Sunday at Royal Sydney Golf Club, lifting him into a tie for fourth place in his native country’s championship and qualifying him for arguably the world’s most prestigious tournament.
The top three finishers who hadn’t already qualified for the British Open qualified through the Australian Open. Thus Gibson – who was 998th in the most recent world ranking – is guaranteed a spot in the field for the British Open, which will be held July 17-20 in England at Royal Liverpool (Hoylake).
Gibson, who lives in Edmond, played steady golf during the Australian Open. He opened Thursday with a 1-under-par 71, improved to a 70 on Friday, then posted consecutive 69s on the weekend.
On Sunday, he eagled the par-5 No. 7 – he nearly had an albatross (or double eagle), as his approach shot to the green rolled, hit the cup and lipped out – and was at 6-under with three holes to play before bogeying the last three holes.
Still, he finished the tournament at 9-under, nine shots behind the winner, Rory McIlroy and eight behind runner-up Adam Scott. Another Australian, John Senden, was third at 11-under. Scott won the Masters this past April while McIlroy is a two-time major winner, having captured the 2011 U.S. Open and the 2012 PGA Championship.
''To be honest, I wasn't really thinking about the Open,'' Gibson told The Sydney Morning Herald. ''I was just trying to finish as high as I could. That's just a bonus – first year of it, the qualifying. I'd love to be a part of that.
“It means the world to me to play in my first major championship. That’s what we all want to do – to play majors – and I’m grateful for the opportunity. The Open means so much with all the history of the Australians who have played in it and it’s a great test of golf that tests every facet of your game. I am really looking forward to it.”
It’s been a successful year so far for Gibson, a native of Linsmore, Australia. In June, he won the NGA Tour’s Avoca Classic at Scotch Hall Preserve in Windsor, N.C., and followed up in September by winning the Arkansas Open at Burns Park Golf Course in North Little Rock, Ark.
In October, he tied for fourth at the Nanshan China Masters, also finishing behind a pair of major winners, Charl Schwartzel and Darren Clarke.
Gibson was a four-time NAIA All-America first-team selection (2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008) at OC. He won four individual titles – the third-highest total in school history – while helping the Eagles to a pair of runner-up finishes and a pair of third-place team showings at the NAIA Championship.
He won the Oklahoma state amateur title and was named as the Oklahoma state amateur player of the year in 2008. He also set a world scoring record by shooting a 55 at River Oaks Golf Club in Oklahoma City in May 2012.
Gibson and five others will be inducted into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame on Jan. 24.