The Sheffield native came through Final Qualifying for The Open at nearby St Annes Old Links last year and secured a Championship debut at Royal St George’s.
With this week’s winner securing an exemption to The 150th Open in St Andrews next month, Bairstow kept his dreams alive after defeating leading stroke play qualifier Jonathan Broomhead from South Africa by a convincing 6&4 margin in the last-32.
The 23-year-old, who won the Brabazon Trophy last year, then kept his cool in the afternoon sun in Lancashire after birdies at the 2nd and the 8th helped him defeat Irishman Jack Hearn 4&3.
"It was amazing," he recalled of his experience at Sandwich 12 months ago. "To get it done in qualifying and play at St George's, with obviously the best players in the world, was really good."
Bairstow now faces Ludvig Aberg in the quarter-finals – the third best player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking® – after the Swede beat countryman Henrik Lilja at the 19th this morning. With Peter Hanson caddying for him, the former Ryder Cup player, he then saw off another Irishman, Matthew McClean, by 3&1 after three birdies in the opening eight holes.
“This is what I came for,” said Aberg. “This is what you want to get out of this week – wins. I feel very honoured to be here and it's just fun. That was Peter’s (Hanson) first caddie assignment since 1998, when he caddied for his wife. I guess I'm a little blessed to have him carry my bag. Just having him around is great for us.”
Irishman Peter O’Keeffe was a one-hole winner over Frenchman Nathan Legendre in the afternoon and now faces in-form John Gough, who holed a 15-feet putt on the 18th to see off the challenge of Welshman James Ashfield. Gough, a morning winner over Sandy Scott, has now lost only one of his last 23 match play ties and also won the Lytham Trophy at the Lancashire venue in May.
“I've been playing pretty poor golf all season,” admitted O’Keeffe. “I wasn’t even going to come because I played brutal in a tournament back home last week, so we said we would make a family holiday out of it.
“This is the dream, you know, so it's worth showing up at least, and I played okay in qualifying. I got it going in places and just kind of played smart golf here the first few days and then played lovely today. It's a holiday for the family in their mind and I'm playing golf all day and my poor wife is minding our one and three-year-olds for the days!”