The Scottish Boys Championship has always been something of a meteorological minefield.

One year, the under-18 showpiece can be bathed in shimmering sunshine, the next it can be rent asunder with howling gales, lashing rain and the odd flurry of snow that has drookit, dishevelled teenage golfers scampering for temporary refuge behind gorse bushes and battered brollies.

More often than not, players can experience that full range of aforementioned elements by the time a matchplay encounter has reached the second tee.

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Like many of today's Scottish touring professionals, Alastair Forsyth cut his teeth in the championship when he was a lad and, as it returns to the delightful links of West Kilbride this week, the Paisley man reflected fondly on those eventful, youthful days. "I've played in some brutal conditions at the boys," recalled Forsyth. "It's a packed clubhouse and I've always felt there is a great atmosphere to the event. It's the biggest thing you play as a boy until you get into the international ranks. It's the event that traditionally kick starts the golf season in Scotland . . . that and the Masters on the television."

The pendulous, unpredictable nature of the matchplay format provides the ideal ingredients for upsets and surprises. Forsyth knows about that, of course. "I got to the final in 1992 which was a wee bit of a surprise to be honest," he added. "I wasn't involved in any Scottish squads at the time and was playing off two or three."

In a field of 256 players, there will be plenty who fancy their chances. In the absence of defending champion Bradley Neil, the top tips for success are Ewen Ferguson and Robert MacIntyre. Ferguson, the Bearsden teenager, underlined his matchplay qualities last year with a 10 and 9 victory in the final of the British Boys' Championship while Oban left-hander MacIntyre will be looking to add the national under-18 matchplay crown to the Scottish Boys Strokeplay and Scottish Youths Open titles he already holds.

The action gets underway this morning with a 36-hole final bringing the curtain down on Saturday.