analysis Victory at local club could lead to recall to GB & Ireland squad
Left out of last week’s training camp held at Royal Aberdeen, where GB & Ireland will meet the Americans in the biennial match, the 20-year-old is a proven matchplay specialist who, in 2009, became the first player ever to win this title and the Scottish Boys Championship in the same season.
After disappointing displays last year, he bounced back to form when the Scotland squad wintered in South Africa; winning their Northern Open and the South African Strokeplay Championship, forcing his way back into contention.
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Throw in the local knowledge he can bring to bear as a member at Royal Aberdeen and he was entitled to be a little surprised when he was not asked to join four of his compatriots -- Michael Stewart, James Byrne, Ross Kellett and Kris Nicol -- among the 18 players selected for that training camp.
That, however, has simply made his task all the more clear this week and when asked if he felt he had to win at Western Gailes his answer was unequivocal.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I need a win this week and a top five, or maybe a top 10 next week [at the European Individual Championship in Sweden].”
It helps that he is back in the same part of the country as that in which he enjoyed his greatest success when lifting this title at Royal Troon in 2009, and Law joked about the possibility of getting superstitious. That is, if he can manage to identify one of the five different hotels he stayed in that week.
More importantly, he played solidly in earning himself a rest day today with a 5&4 win over Martin McCrory of Cathkin Braes, as did fellow seed Kellett who won five of the first six holes on his way to a 6&4 win over Billy Campbell of Kirkintilloch.
With few in the field having much experience of this course, the Colville Park golfer felt he had benefited from playing a practice round on Saturday with Michael Stewart, the defending champion. “He told me about a few places where you wouldn’t want to be which was good,” said Kellett.
Already the favourite, having followed his win in this event last year with victory in the South African Amateur Championship before reaching the final of the Amateur Championship at Hillside earlier this summer, Stewart explained that he knows this terrain well because his grandfather was a member at the club.
He is well aware that he is seen as the man to beat and admitted that he had taken a look at the draw to register that his quarter was heavily populated with high calibre opponents, including no fewer than six more Scottish international players.
Five of those -- Jordan Findlay, Paul Shields, Steven McEwan, Gordon Yates and Craig Watson -- joined him in getting through to the second round and he is relishing the prospect of tough games ahead.
“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t taken a look at the draw and, while it won’t make a difference in terms of who I meet, I’ve got good guys around me so I have to switch on early,” he said.
That he did yesterday, teeing off at 7.25am and, after an early blip with his only bogey of the round at the second, he got ahead by winning the third, fifth and, with his first birdie, the sixth holes. A run of birdies at the 12th, 13th and 14th holes saw him finish in style as he saw off Bonnyton’s David Docherty 4&3.
The only one of the former internationalists in that top quarter of the draw to depart on the opening day was Paul McKellar, the 55-year-old who was twice a runner-up in this event in the seventies and, rather more recently, was the last man to beat Stewart in this event. That was in the first round at Royal Troon two years ago where his membership at the host club surely helped.
The veteran is also a member at Western Gailes and set the course record here just last year, but Ladybank’s Alister Hain proved just too strong for him yesterday, winning their match on the final green.
n Highland Spring have agreed a sponsorship deal to back the Scottish Golf Union’s Junior Masters Series for the next year. The company will also act as a supporting partner to clubgolf, the national junior golf programme.
Local qualifying events for the Junior Masters have already taken place with 300 youngsters winning places in the four regional finals. The Grand Final will take place at The Gleneagles Hotel’s Queen’s Course on October 9.