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Keeper to beat: Collier's clubs are in safe pair of hands . . .

It's a different ball game these days for Andy Collier.

Andy Collier managed to save his tournament on the first extra hole againt Scott Graham. Picture: Kenny Smith
Andy Collier managed to save his tournament on the first extra hole againt Scott Graham. Picture: Kenny Smith

Or is it? From goalkeeper to golfer, the 21-year-old is still trying to save shots. In his debut appearance in the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship, the man of a few fitba' clubs showed he was a dab hand with the golf clubs as he scrambled his way into the second round with a 19th hole victory over Arbroath's Scott Graham.

Having been on the professional books with Airdrie United and East Fife, the goalposts of Collier's career changed dramatically 16 months ago when he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. "I knew something was wrong and it became increasingly difficult to play," he reflected.

"I was tired, thirsty and I needed to go to the toilet just about every 10 minutes. That wasn't so easy on a football pitch. It's a bit easier at the golf. There was period when I was drinking two litres of water every hour. Some of the doctors said that it could've started with me stopping a shot and damaging my pancreas which led to it shutting down."

Two years ago, Collier was sitting on the bench at a jam-packed Ibrox as re-launched Rangers marked their first home match as a Third Division club with a League Cup-tie against those East Fifers of Methil.

"I think they said there were just 38,000 there, so we would get less money," joked Collier, who played under Stevie Crawford, John Robertson and Gordon Durie on a manic, managerial merry-go-round at New Bayview. "It was a great experience to be there."

The atmosphere was slightly less rabid in the leafy, tranquil environs of Downfield yesterday as Collier edged over the first hurdle of the domestic showpiece.

Two-up with three to play, the Balbirnie Park member three-putted the 16th to cut his lead before Graham knocked in a birdie on the 17th to restore parity. Like a goalie clutching at a cross, though, Collier held on and won up the first extra hole with a conceded par.

"I see golf as a future career," added Collier, who is relishing life away from football and now runs his own sports coaching business. "I've got a bit to go, of course, and I'm four or five years behind a lot of the guys in the Scottish squads.

"Sometimes when I'm doing a bit of football coaching I look at the nice pitch and wish I was out there again. But in a strange way, the diagnosis might have been good for me. I'm enjoying these new opportunities."

Collier has swapped football for golf. Barry Hume's career has gone the other way. These days, he runs a US scholarship recruitment firm called Soccer Innovation with the former St Mirren midfielder Ricky Gillies. Here at Downfield 13 years ago, Hume was at the peak of his powers in the amateur ranks and his victory in the national championship, during a triumphant week in which he was 40-under-par for the 139 holes he played, was viewed as a matchplay masterclass.

He has still got it, mind you. A 6 and 5 win over Connor Neil had the vanquished opponent sportingly purring that he too had been on the receiving end of a "masterclass".

The vast promise Hume showed in the unpaid game did not materialise during a largely frustrating spell as a professional. Having regained his amateur status last year, though, Hume is enjoying the odd batter about here and there. A return to this happy hunting ground has proved to be particularly pleasing.

"I really enjoy this place," cooed Hume, who was five-under for the 13 holes it took him to swat aside Neil. "I played in the Boys' Strokeplay here in 1997 and finished 3rd when I was 15. I loved it then and, obviously, I came back for the Scottish Amateur when I was a wee bit older.

"It just fits my eye. I've got access to good memories which is always useful to have. I don't have the time to dedicate being a full-time 72-hole tournament player but in matchplay it's a little bit different."

Cawder's Jamie Savage, the Irish Open champion, was one of the ­notable seeds to depart as he lost 3 and 2 to Daniel Elder of Carnoustie. Grant Forrest, the Scottish champion in 2012, eased through the first round, though, with a 4 and 3 victory over clubmate Greg Smail while Bradley Neil, the No.1 seed, romped to a 7 and 6 win against Joseph Bryce in the afternoon's second-round encounters.

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