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MacIntyre Joins Professional Ranks

by Colin Callander - October 09, 2017

Scottish Walker Cup player Robert MacIntyre has become the latest in a long line of amateurs to announce he has turned professional in the course of the past few weeks.

The 21-year-old from Glencruitten made the decision early last week and plans to play in a couple of MENA Tour events in the Middle East before travelling back to Europe to start his quest for a European Tour card at one of the Stage 2 Q-School events in Spain.

“It was going to happen sometime,” said the left-hander who bowed out of amateur golf in 14th place on the World Amateur Golf Ranking. “The big question was when and now seems as good a time as any.”

“I’m sure I could have explored playing in a few bigger European Tour events but the route I’m taking is geared towards the Qualifying School. That’s the main goal and the reason I’m playing in these two MENA Tour events is that I feel it will give me the best chance of securing my card for next season.

“The trip will allow me to practise as long as I want each day which isn’t the case back home at this time of year due to the weather. You’ve got to start somewhere when you turn pro and I don’t mind at all going from the top of the amateur game to working my way up through the professional ranks.”

There is normally an exodus from the amateur ranks at this time of year, but not often on the scale we have witnessed in the past couple of months. MacIntyre’s Scottish teammates Connor Syme and Liam Johnston already have made the switch ahead of Stage 2 and there is speculation that two other senior members of the Scottish squad might be about to follow suit.

It would be no exaggeration to say that the English elite and “A” squads have been decimated with the likes of Scott Gregory, Alfie Plant, Bradley Moore, Dan Brown, Sean Towndrow, Marco Penge, Tom Gandy and Jack Yule switching codes.

Global Golf Post reported last week that Stuart Grehan had followed Walker Cup reserve Conor O’Rourke into the pro ranks and more recently he has been joined by Colin Fairweather, while the newlook Wales Golf have lost the services of David Boote, Jack Davidson, Owen Edwards and Evan Griffith just as they have announced their new five-year strategic plan.

Paul McBride, Harry Ellis and Matthew Jordan are the only three members of this year’s GB&I Walker Cup team not to have turned pro to date but of course this mass exodus into the pro ranks does give up-and-coming players such as Gian-Marco Petrozzi, Jake Burnage, Charlie Strickland, Sandy Scott, Calum Fyfe, Mark Power, Caolan Rafferty and many others an excellent opportunity to fill the void.

The situation is much the same in the women’s game. Question marks surround the future of the Ladies European Tour but that has not stopped English internationals Gemma Clews, Rochelle Morris and Olivia Winning from making the switch. Clews made a fine start to her pro career by making the cut at the LPGA-sanctioned McKayson New Zealand Women’s Open while Winning and Morris played in the concurrent WPGA International Challenge on the LET Access Series.

Boote made it a clean sweep by all the GB&I Walker Cup players when he successfully came through the Stage 1 European Tour Qualifying School event at Frilford Heath in Oxford.

The Welsh international carded rounds of 69, 72, 73 and 71 to share 10th place behind the winner, English professional Peter Tarver-Smith, and make it through to Stage 2 alongside Jack Singh Brar, Davidson, Plant and McBride, all of whom came through earlier Stage 1 events.

They will be met at Stage 2 by Walker Cup colleagues Gregory, MacIntyre and Syme, all of whom were exempt from competing in Stage 1 on account of their high positions on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

There were a number of well-known faces from the amateur game competing at Frilford Heath, the most successful of whom was Northern Ireland’s Fairweather, who turned pro ahead of Q-School and who finished tied fourth with rounds of 74, 66, 72 and 72.

Former US-based amateur Sam Horsfield closed with a 71 to finish tied with Boote on 285 but there was heartache for this year’s Brabazon Trophy winner Kyle Mc-Clatchie and Walker Cup reserve O’Rourke, with the South African and the Irishman both missing out by a single shot on 286. England’s Alex Stubbs and Australian’s Harrison Endycott were the other two amateurs to make the 36-hole cut but then fail to collect a card.

Zan Luka Stirn from the Czech Republic, Morocco’s Ayoub Lguirati and Kim Koivu from Finland were the three amateurs to progress to Stage 2 from the Stage 1 event at Bogogno in Italy.

Stirn carded rounds of 72, 69, 70 and 69 to share 17th place with Lguirati but the Moroccan must have wondered for a while if he was going to make it after closing with a 75. Koivu made it right on the mark by sharing 21st place, one shot further behind.

Former Swiss amateur international Mathias Eggenberger was another player who squeezed through on 7-under-par 281 but it was a different story for his Italian counterpart Michele Cea, who was among the leading former amateurs to miss out.

British Amateur champion Harry Ellis played through the pain barrier to claim his first victory on the US collegiate circuit at the Marquette Intercollegiate Championship over the US Open course at Erin Hills.

Ellis, who plays for Florida State University, carded rounds of 75, 66 and 72 to tie with Marquette University’s Austin Kendziorski on 3-under 213. Florida State claimed fourth place behind winner Texas A&M University in the team event.

“I’m proud of Harry making another significant step in his golf career,” FSU coach Trey Jones said. “You don’t always get what you think you deserve in golf but Harry has deserved this win. He played through a very painful neck injury all day and still performed at a very high level. He continues to lead by example in every way.”

It proved to be another good week for the European players on the collegiate circuit. Sweden’s Linnea Ström (Arizona State University) posted rounds of 68, 68 and 72 to finish runner-up in the Windy City Collegiate Championship, where Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey (Arizona State) was sixth and her compatriot Leona Maguire (Duke University) was T9. Rhys Nevin-Wharton (University of Tennessee) also claimed a second place finish at The Jackrabbit tournament in Nebraska.

Epsom completed a rare double when its team won the Grafton Morrish Trophy at Hunstanton and Royal West Norfolk.

Walker Cup player Boote was part of the Epsom team which won the Halford Hewitt back in April and they became only the fourth school after Charterhouse (1966), Malvern (2006) and Clifton (2010) to win both events in the same calendar year when they beat George Heriot’s, 2-1, in the final.

The victors did not lose a single match while beating Eastbourne, St Dunstan’s and Bedford in the first three rounds. They went on to defeat Sherborne, 2-1, in the semi-final before beating their Scottish rivals by the same margin to lift the trophy for the first time.

English international David Hague ended the domestic season on a high note when he topped a strong field at the North of England Amateur Stroke Play Championship at Alwoodley.

Hague (Malton & Norton) carded rounds of 71, 71, 69 and 74 to finish two shots ahead of Andrew Wilson (Darlington) on 1-over-par 285. English junior international Harry Goddard (Hanbury Manor) claimed the low last round with a 68 to climb up into a share of third place with Nicholas Poppleton (Wath) on 288 while George Bloor (Cavendish) and Callan Barrow (Royal Lytham & St Annes) were tied fifth, two shots further behind.

Ireland ended England’s hopes of lifting the trophy for a fourth year in a row, claiming a narrow victory against the holders in the deciding match at the Senior Women’s Home Internationals at Newport in Wales.

The two teams both went into the last day with 100 percent records after victories against Scotland and Wales and they also shared the morning foursomes before the Irish edged to a 4½-3½ victory with singles wins from Gertie McMullen, Sheena McElroy and Laura Webb. The English winners were Julie Brown and Jackie Forster.

It was Ireland’s first victory in the event since back-to-back triumphs in 2012-13.

Wales claimed third place on points after halving their final match against Scotland, 4-4.

Wales Golf sets sights on future

Welsh amateur golf’s governing body has announced a major brand change to facilitate its ambitious new five-year strategic plan for 2018-22.

Ten years after the Welsh Golfing Union and the Welsh Ladies Golf Union became the first of the home unions to amalgamate under the banner of the Golf Union of Wales, that name is to disappear and be replaced by Wales Golf.

As part of this major rebranding exercise the Golf Union of Wales and Golf Development Wales will be merged under the new banner, which should help in terms of public perception and will lead to efficiencies with only one website, one annual general meeting and one set of accounts.

Welsh golf, led by the likes of Jack Davidson and David Boote, has had a successful year on the international amateur stage but its governing body hopes its new strategic plan will take it to an altogether different level.

“Ten years after we merged the two unions to set up the Golf Union of Wales, now is a good time to rebrand as Golf Wales,” explained Richard Dixon, Wales Golf’s chief executive.

“It’s also perfect timing to do it to coincide with a new five-year strategic plan. Golf Development Wales and the Golf Union of Wales were always interlinked and run from the same place, but this move ends any confusion there may have been on the outside. The vision is to make golf everyone’s game, everywhere. We aim to create and support an environment in Wales where golf is safe and accessible to everyone to participate, enjoy and progress.”

Wales Golf has set itself some pretty lofty targets within its new strategic plan.

“In the next five years we aim to see a 5 per cent increase in golf participation with 250,000 people introduced to the game,” Dixon said. “We aim to boost women’s participation by 20 per cent with a similar increase for girls and to see the New2Golf scheme growing to 10,000 members.

“We want to continue to work with our clubs to boost their growth on the back of the increased participation, with 50 strong accessible clubs achieving golf standard, 50 achieving junior accreditation and half seeing a membership increase.

“We also have ambitious targets in terms of producing top-quality players to compete at the highest levels. By 2022, we aim to have eight winners of major international amateur events, a top-10 finish in the World Amateur Team Championships, a top-three finish in the European Team Championships and five players in the top 100 of the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

“Finally, we need to engage more with every golfer in Wales,” he added. “All these objectives include annual targets so we will be able to monitor our progress on a regular basis.”

C.C.

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