It would be no exaggeration to suggest this is one of the busiest and most important weeks on the British amateur golfing calendar.
It is the week when the English Amateur Championship is held at Silloth on Solway and Seascale, the Scottish Amateur is played at Royal Dornoch and the Welsh Amateur is staged at Royal St David’s in Harlech. The good news for readers of Global Golf Post is that we will be covering all of those national championships in considerable depth.
John Hopkins will be the man on site at the glorious Royal St David’s links at Harlech where both finalists from last year’s championship at Aberdovey are in the field.
Twelve months ago, Jason Shufflebotham (Prestatyn) beat Walker Cup player Rhys Pugh (Vale of Glamorgan) by one hole in the 36-hole final. This time, Shufflebotham starts out his defence on Wednesday with a second-round tie against either Elliott Anderson (Ashburnham) or Craig Melding (Neath). Pugh is the first seed for this year’s championship and he awaits the winner of the first-round tie between Joshua Weir (Rhuddlan) and Patrick Mullins (Whitchurch). The other seeds in this week’s field are James Frazer (Pennard), Luke Jackson (Misterton) David Boote (Walton Heath), Richard Bentham (St Pierre) Luke Thomas (Pontypridd) and Will Jones (Oswestry). Boote won the recent St David’s Gold Cross at Royal St David’s after a play-off against Geraint Jones from the host club.
The Welsh Amateur is a straight match-play event and the format is the same at the Scottish Amateur, which begins at Royal Dornoch on Monday and will be covered by another regular Global Golf Post correspondent, Lewine Mair.
Last year David Law (Hazelhead) produced a links masterclass when he defeated Daniel Kay (Dunbar) by 6 and 5 in the 36-hole final at Western Gailes. It was a result which gave the Aberdonian his second title in the space of three years and made him the first multiple winner since the legendary Charlie Green back in 1983.
Law has subsequently turned professional, but this year’s field still looks very strong on paper and includes two former champions, Graham Gordon (2003) and Glenn Campbell (2005).
The seeds for the championship are Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie), Ross Bell (Downfield), Paul Ferrier (Barberton), Fraser McKenna (Balmore), Paul Shields (Kirkhill), Jack McDonald (Kilmarnock Barassie), Matthew Clark (Kilmacolm) and Brian Soutar (Leven).
Soutar has already won the South African Amateur this season while McDonald and Ferrier both reached the last four at the recent Amateur Championship at Royal Troon.
McDonald also did very well to make the cut against a strong international field at the recent Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. He is one of a number of promising youngsters to be appearing over the testing links at Dornoch, and another two who come into that category are Craig Howie (Pebbles), who won the Scottish Boys’ Match Play title earlier this season, and Greig Marchbank (Dumfries and County), last year’s SGU Boys Order of Merit winner, who claimed his first national title when he stormed to a four-shot victory over Ewen Ferguson (Bearsden) at last week’s Stephen Gallacher Foundation Scottish Boys’ Stroke Play Championship at Cardross.
Marchbank, who celebrated his 18th birthday on the weekend before his victory, will clearly travel to the Highlands in good spirits. “It feels great to get this trophy and this is definitely the biggest win of my career so far,” he said. “It gives me a lot of confidence for the Scottish Amateur and the Boys’ Amateur Championship coming up soon.”
This last time the Scottish Amateur was played at Royal Dornoch was in 2000 when Steven O’Hara (Colville Park) defeated Craig Heap (East Kilbride) by one hole in the final. Dean Robertson (1993) also won there and, like O’Hara, went on to turn professional and play on the European Tour. Other former winners at other venues include Colin Montgomerie (1987) and Stephen Gallacher (1992), while the late Ronnie Shade remains the most successful competitor in the championship’s history having won five titles in a row between 1963 and 1967.
The English Amateur also has a rich history and a host of notable former champions, and the good news, for me at least, is that I will be heading up to Cumbria to report on the action.
The championship is England Golf’s oldest event and dates back to 1925 when a distinctively named T Froes Ellison won at Hoylake. He went on to defend the title at Walton Heath the following year and still remains one of only six players to have achieved that feat – the others being Frank Pennick, Alan Thirwell, Michael Bonallack, Harry Ashby and Paul Casey.
Bonallack won back to back twice in his heyday, in 1962-63 and 1967-68, and, like Shade in Scotland, won five times in all during a sparkling career when he was also a multiple winner of the British title.
Repeat winners tend to be rarer nowadays, largely because of the speed at which young players turn professional. Last year’s champion, Steve Brown, has followed other recent winners like Richard Finch, Gary Lockerbie, Paul Waring, Ross McGowan, Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood into the paid ranks. But there will be no shortage of competition with recent Brabazon Trophy winner, Neil Raymond, joining the likes of 2012 Spanish Amateur champion, Jack Hiluta, and a host of other St Andrews Trophy and England squad members.
Local fans will delighted to learn Cumbria’s own Seb Crookall-Nixon will also tee up at Silloth on Solway and Seascale, although his preparations for the championship have been far from ideal. The former double English Under-16s champion broke his collar bone in a car crash a couple of months ago. He withdrew from his national championship at that point but has subsequently re-entered and will be hoping complete a fairytale recovery in front of his local fans.
The English Amateur differs from the Scottish and the Welsh Championships in as much as it starts out with two stroke-play qualifying rounds with the leading 64 players going on to contest the match play stages. They are seeded according to their stroke play finishing place.
Crookhall-Nixon is not the only young British player to have seen his season disrupted by a car crash. Last week both Scottish international Rachael Watton (Morton Hall) and Hannah Robb (Strathmore) had to withdraw from the Scottish Ladies’ Junior (Under- 21) Open Stroke Play Championship at Blairgowrie after being involved in accidents on the road.
Watton (Morton Hall), who has just finished her first year at Denver University, sustained whiplash injuries during a collision with a van and pulled out on the eve of the championship. Robb did start but had to withdraw after playing a few holes.
“A van ran into the back of my car and I am experiencing neck and back pains,” Watton explained. “Luckily, they are my only injuries but as a result I had to pull out. It’s a real shame because I was really looking forward to it.”
The Scottish Under-21 title was won by Nicola Callander (Mill Green), who survived a double-bogey on the penultimate hole to defeat Gemma Dryburgh (Beaconsfield) and Gabrielle Macdonald (Craigielaw) by one shot on 2-over-par 221. The 16-year old Callander becomes the youngest winner of the Under-21 event since Carly Booth triumphed aged 15 at Auchterarder in 2007. St Andrews University’s Kelsey Macdonald had won the title for the last four years.
It turned out to be a good week for Callander (who I should state is my daughter) because just before the start of the tournament she was selected for the Scottish team at the forthcoming Girls’ Home Internationals at Radyr in Wales. She joins fellow debutant Eilidh Watson (Muckhart), Lesley Atkins (Gullane Ladies), Jessica Meek (Carnoustie Ladies) Ailsa Summers (Carnoustie Ladies), Rachel Watson (Dumfries & Co.), Lauren Whyte (St Regulus) and Clara Young (North Berwick).
This week it is not just the top men amateurs who are competing in their national championship. The leading English girls are also playing in their Under 18, 15 and 13 events in Cheshire.
Hard on the heels of Lauren Whyte (St Regulus) winning the Scottish Girls’ Championship staged at Crail and Jessica Carty claiming the Irish Girls’ Close Championship at Waterford, a full field of 120 girls, headed by Curtis Cup player Bronte Law will contest the English Girls’ Under-18 title at Sandiway Golf Club.
Like Crookhall-Nixon, 17-year old Law, who was part of this year’s victorious GB&I team at Nairn, will be playing in her home county, but she will certainly not have things her own way with other top contenders, including Elizabeth Mallett (Sutton Coldfield), the champion in 2010. This year’s Irish stroke play champion, Emily Taylor, (Hillside), will also start among the favourites, as will Gabriella Cowley (West Essex) who won last year’s Under-15 title, this year’s Scottish Under-16 title and was third in the recent Junior Open Championship at Fairhaven.
Cowley is one of seven players at Sandiway who will go on to represent England in the Girls’ Home Internationals at Radyr, Cardiff, from August 7-9. The others are Mallett, Meghan MacLaren (Wellingborough), Brogan Townend (Pleasington), Amber Ratcliffe (Royal Cromer), Shelby Smart (Knowle) and Olivia Winning (Rotherham). We will provide a full preview of that event, plus the concurrent Boys’ Home Internationals in next week’s amateur notes.
Alice Hewson (Berkhamsted) and Sophie Madden (West Essex) will start among the favourites when the English Girls’ Under-15s Championship is played at Delamere Forest, another of Cheshire’s leading courses.
The 15-year-old Madden is the backmarker in the field, playing off scratch, while 14-year-old Hewson, off 1, won the Under-13 title back in 2010, and is having a fine season during which she reached the final of the Hertfordshire Ladies’ Championship.
Sammy Fuller (Roehampton) defends her title at the concurrent Under- 13 event, also staged at Delamere Forest. The 13-year-old, who plays off 2, will be accompanied by her sister, Annabell, a 14-handicapper, who is the youngest player in the field, aged just 8.
Another competitor in the Under-13s event is Lucy Walton (The Worcestershire) who at the age of 12 won her Ladies’ County Championship earlier this year. That is thought to be a record in any English county.
Reproduced with kind permission of Global Golf Post - Subscribe now for free
IN THE MAY 13, 2013 ISSUE