A new era begins on the Tartan Tour today as the domestic circuit opens its doors to non-members for the first Optical Express PGA Tour event of the season at Dundonald Links in Ayrshire, writes Nick Rodger. The PGA recently took the pay-and-play tour under its administrative umbrella and has included the six-event programme on its order of merit. The 'come all ye' ethos of the original circuit, which was the brainchild of Alan Tait and Nigel Scott-Smith, has also been preserved and that has helped to attract and varied field for this opening 54-holer.
Ross Kellett and Kris Nicol, two of Scotland's aspiring rookies, have the opportunity to gain vital competitive experience in the pro arena on home soil while Craig Lee and Steven O'Hara, who are not on European Tour duty in Malaysia this week, have filled in the gap on their schedules. Wallace Booth, whose professional career has been ravaged by a niggling shoulder injury, continues his comeback while the Challenge Tour campaigners Callum Macaulay, Andrew McArthur and Chris Doak also compete. Ian Redford, the former Rangers player who turned pro earlier this year at the age of 51, joins his son, Ian Jr, in the line-up.
n Ten Scots are in a field of 240 players for the PGA EuroPro Tour Final Qualifying School at Frilford Heath GC, Oxfordshire from today to Friday. They are Ross Cameron (Ellon), Myles Cunningham (Longniddry), John Gallagher (Swanston), John Henry (Clydebank & District), Mark Kerr (Marriott Dalmahoy), James McGhee (Duddingston), Greg Nicolson (Mortonhall), Mark Rae (Alyth), Michael Stewart (Troon Welbeck) and Scott Young (Turnhouse). The top 120 will contest 18 holes on Friday, with a prize fund of £16,000.
Stenhousemuir have re-signed the 26-year-old South African all-rounder Rushdi Jappie for the new season, writes William Dick. He made a significant impact last year, scoring 280 runs and taking 18 wickets, but a club spokesman added: "Rushdi also impressed us with his coaching ability and his infectious enthusiasm." Stenhousemuir will contest the new CS Western First Division and open their campaign at Poloc on May 12. Their first competitive action comes with a Scottish Cup-tie at Forfarshire a week on Saturday (April 21).
n Lee Spendlove, who prepares the wicket at Citylets Grange for the Saltires, will attend the ICC's first workshop for groundsmen (curators) today and tomorrow in Dubai. He will have the chance to share tips with the head curators and turf managers of all 10 Full Members.
Preparations for the Champions Challenge I in Italy in late September are likely to prove a headache for Gordon Shepherd, Scotland women's coach, writes Craig Madden. As last year, the quality of the opposition is high: Ireland, Spain, Australia, Belgium, South Africa and the United States are all involved and the last four have all qualified for the London Olympics.
The Scots took bronze last year in Dublin, beating Spain in a penalty shoot-out after the teams drew 2-2 in normal time, and Shepherd is keen to ensure that the Scots remain in that company. "We want to be playing the highest ranked teams possible and we want to be testing ourselves all the time," he said. "I think the tournament will be strengthened by the addition of Australia who are improving greatly under their new coach, as are Belgium who have qualified for the Olympics."
Great Britain claims will deny Shepherd the services of three of his leading players: Laura Bartlett, Emily Maguire and goalkeeper Abi Walker are "cup tied" as they were in the GB squad that took silver in the recent Champions Trophy in Argentina, rated the same competition as the Champions Challenge. Scotland's other player in the GB training squad is Vikki Bunce, she was not selected for the Champions Trophy and should be available for Shepherd in Italy.
Bathgate's Dario Franchitti, the four-time IndyCar champion, was fastest in testing at Infineon Raceway in California with a time of 1min 17.10sec to boost his prospects in Sunday's Long Beach Grand Prix, writes Lorin McDougall. He finished only 13th and tenth in the opening two races of the season.
Gordon Reid, from Helensburgh, completed three back-to-back wheelchair tournaments in the United States on a winning note when he won the men's consolation singles final at the Florida Open in Boca Raton, the second Super Series tournament of 2012, writes Henry McCall.
The British No.1 lost 6-1, 6-2 to Sweden's world No.8 Stefan Olsson in the first round of the main event but won the consolation event by beating Japan's Mamoru Iwata 6-1, 6-2, his doubles partner Marc McCarroll 7-6 (10-8), 6-2 and Takashi Sanada, the world No.10 from Japan, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. A week earlier, Reid, world ranked No.12, beat Satoshi Saida, the No.9 from Japan, to reach the quarter-finals of the Pensacola Open before losing to the Dutch world No.1 Maikel Scheffers in third sets. Reid won the doubles with the Frenchman Michael Jeremiasz.