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Scots will join party as Portrush celebrates

You wouldn't be surprised if you walked through the doors of the Royal Portrush clubhouse today and were greeted by bunting and 'welcome back' banners.

This morning, after months of whispering and rumours, the Royal & Ancient are expected to confirm that the 2019 Open Championship will be returning to the Country Antrim links for the first time since 1951.

Amid all that hoopla, the Amateur Championship will get under way at Portrush as the blue riband event of the unpaid game is staged in this neck of the golfing woods for the first time in 21 years.

A vast Scottish contingent has made the short hop across the Irish Sea for the 36-hole qualifying stages, which will be co-hosted by nearby Portstewart. With a place in next month's Open, as well as invitations to next year's Masters and US Open, awarded to the winner, there are sizeable carrots dangled in front of the 288 entrants.

Forfar's Stuart Wilson was the last Scot to win the title a decade ago in the matchplay final at St Andrews but there is a quiet confidence in the home ranks.

Grant Forrest trumped an international field in last weekend's St Andrews Links Trophy. The Craigielaw youngster's matchplay credentials are impressive, winning the Scottish Boys' title and Scottish Amateur Championship in recent seasons.

Bearsden's Ewen Ferguson, the holder of both the Scottish and British Boys' matchplay crowns, will be optimistic of mounting a robust assault should he negotiate his week through the strokeplay qualifier while Bradley Neil, pipped in a play-off by Forrest last weekend, is another emerging talent with plenty of pedigree in the one-to-one format.

Cawder's Jamie Savage won the Irish Open Strokeplay in Dublin earlier this season and he will be aiming for a double whammy.

One player certain to attract plenty of attention will be Javier Ballesteros, the son of the late, great Seve, who makes his debut in the championship.

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