Golf-crazy West Ham United midfielder Gary O'Neil has missed out on a place at the 2012 Open Championship.

The Hammers star and scratch handicapper was one of more than 120 hopefuls who teed-off in Regional Qualifying at The London Club in Kent - where O'Neil is a member - on Monday. Just 12 of them would go through to the final round of qualifying.

With more than 1,000 professionals and amateurs taking part from all over the world at 14 courses across the country, including players from Spain, Sweden, Gibraltar, South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, the 29-year-old was always going to face an uphill task to reach the most famous tournament in golf.

The 2012 Open Championship will take place at Royal Lytham and St Anne's Golf Club in Lancashire, just five miles from the Bloomfield Road home of npower Championship Play-Off final runners-up Blackpool, who O'Neil helped the Hammers to defeat at Wembley last month.

However, after scoring his first goal for the Club at Bloomfield Road in West Ham's 4-1 win there in February, the No32's hopes of returning to the north west were dashed by a seven-over par round of 79.

With the course playing long due to weekend rain, O'Neil's score was in the top 70 come the end of the day. Indeed, when he was three-over on the 15th tee, there was a very real chance he would reach the Local Final Qualifying round.

Gary O'Neil

Speaking beforehand, O'Neil was visibly nervous. Despite having played in front of nearly 80,000 fans at Wembley in May, the player admitted to feeling butterflies in his stomach before teeing-off alongside professional Warren Bennett and fellow amateur Charlie Wilson at 12.56pm.

"I am a bit nervous to be honest," he told whufc.com "I just hope I can relax and play the way I do when I'm on the course with my mates on a Sunday!"

After spending time on the driving range and putting green, O'Neil had a quick word with Sky Sports News before heading for the International Course first tee, where he and his playing partners were given a rundown of the local rules. Then, after watching Bennett and Wilson tee-off, O'Neil got his round underway with a solid drive.

Gary O'Neil

"It was tough out there, mentally tough," said O'Neil as he enjoyed a cup of tea at the Clubhouse afterwards. "I made a bit of a sloppy start then got it going a little bit and was two-under for the first five holes of the back nine, then I lost my driving a little bit and the rough out there is waist-high and I struggled coming in!

"I enjoyed it, playing with two great players, especially Warren who has been on tour for 19 years now and he gave me a few decent tips. He got through to the next round with a 72 so it was a good experience.

"It was difficult and a different sort of pressure from football. It finds you out. They set the course up really tough and any little chinks you have in your armour are found out. I don't normally hit it as bad as I did but I enjoyed it and it was just one of those things. I was pleased to keep it going and record a score below 80.

"The Blackpool game was nerve-wracking, and I've never experienced a football game like it because there was so much rising on it. It was difficult to perform to your best when your whole season is resting on 90 minutes.

"Out there on the golf course was difficult as well because you don't want to embarrass yourself. I think I managed to stay the right side of the embarrassing line, hopefully!"

Having missed out on fulfilling his Open dream, O'Neil will return to Chadwell Heath this weekend when West Ham begin their pre-season training ahead of the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season.

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