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Watson hasn't given up on national selection just yet

Don't be fooled by the self-deprecation.

Craig Watson: no fan of 'stupid world rankings nonsense,' it seems . . . Picture: Kenny Smith
Craig Watson: no fan of 'stupid world rankings nonsense,' it seems . . . Picture: Kenny Smith

Craig Watson remains a canny competitor. "I'm still playing off plus two . . . which shows how bad the handicapping system is," admits the 46-year-old, with a delivery that's as dry as a mouthful of crackers.

In an amateur game dominated by the young guns, Watson is one of the old guard and, having seen it, done it and procured a wardrobe full of T-shirts along the way, the East Renfrewshire member has earned his right to have a good grumble.

"It's this stupid world rankings nonsense," says the former Amateur champion, Walker Cup player and Scotland team captain of a system that is increasingly influencing the make-up of the fields for the leading events on the circuit.

"They try to get the fields as good as possible by going with these world rankings. The handicap ballot for the St Andrews Links Trophy last year was something like plus 2.8. So everybody in the field was plus 3? If you looked at the scores you'd say 'aye, right'. I won the Links Trophy twice but I don't bother entering now."

With his rant over, Watson can get on with reflecting. And there's plenty he can mull over. An Amateur Championship final triumph over Trevor Immelman at Royal St George's in 1997, an Open appearance at Royal Troon the following month, a Walker Cup debut later that season and an invitation to the Masters in April 1998.

Despite individual success and the glitz and glamour of the major championship arena, this career amateur, who divided his competitive crusades with full-time employment in the cut-and-thrust world of electrical appliances, will always cherish that one Walker Cup call-up. A GB&I team, featuring five Scots, may have lost 18-6 to the USA at Quaker Ridge, but the sense of occasion that comes with reaching the pinnacle of team golf in the unpaid ranks left a lasting impression.

"We got business class flights to Baltimore and then two private jets to New York, it was fantastic," added Watson, who was unbeaten in his two singles ties and faced a daunting introduction to the fray on the Saturday afternoon. "I didn't play the foursomes, we were 4-0 down and I was first off in the singles. It was, by far, the most nervous I've ever been. I don't know why but I teed my ball up about five minutes before my name was called to the tee. Looking back it was fortunate because I probably couldn't have teed it up when I was called as I was shaking so much. It was a wee heely drive up in the air, it wasn't bad but it was about 100 yards shorter than everybody else's. Up until I'd won the Amateur, the Walker Cup was never on the horizon for me but here I was involved in it."

Watson still has his ambitions as he looks forward to the 2013 campaign. The amateur game at the top level may be something of a closed shop for those who are not full-time – Watson will stick to the more traditional weekend events like the Tennant Cup and the Battle Trophy on the domestic circuit – but he maintains that there still should be open doors for those of a certain vintage. "You always like to think you'd get a wee chance of playing in the national team again," added Watson, who earned the last of his numerous Scotland caps in 2004. "The focus is very much on the young boys, whether they're any good or not.

Could someone in their mid-30s or older get in the Scotland team now?

"You'd have to win a few tournaments, but even if you were consistently getting top-fives I don't think you'd get in. If the older players are still playing in the same events, they should have the same chances as everyone else. You never know, though . . . I'm quite friendly with one or two of the selectors."

Don't be fooled by the self-deprecation. Craig Watson remains a canny competitor. "I'm still playing off plus two . . . which shows how bad the handicapping system is," admits the 46-year-old, with a delivery that's as dry as a mouthful of crackers.

In an amateur game dominated by the young guns, Watson is one of the old guard and, having seen it, done it and procured a wardrobe full of T-shirts along the way, the East Renfrewshire member has earned his right to have a good grumble.

"It's this stupid world rankings nonsense," says the former Amateur champion, Walker Cup player and Scotland team captain of a system that is increasingly influencing the make-up of the fields for the leading events on the circuit.

"They try to get the fields as good as possible by going with these world rankings. The handicap ballot for the St Andrews Links Trophy last year was something like plus 2.8. So everybody in the field was plus 3? If you looked at the scores you'd say 'aye, right'. I won the Links Trophy twice but I don't bother entering now."

With his rant over, Watson can get on with reflecting. And there's plenty he can mull over. An Amateur Championship final triumph over Trevor Immelman at Royal St George's in 1997, an Open appearance at Royal Troon the following month, a Walker Cup debut later that season and an invitation to the Masters in April 1998.

Despite individual success and the glitz and glamour of the major championship arena, this career amateur, who divided his competitive crusades with full-time employment in the cut-and-thrust world of electrical appliances, will always cherish that one Walker Cup call-up. A GB&I team, featuring five Scots, may have lost 18-6 to the USA at Quaker Ridge, but the sense of occasion that comes with reaching the pinnacle of team golf in the unpaid ranks left a lasting impression.

"We got business class flights to Baltimore and then two private jets to New York, it was fantastic," added Watson, who was unbeaten in his two singles ties and faced a daunting introduction to the fray on the Saturday afternoon. "I didn't play the foursomes, we were 4-0 down and I was first off in the singles. It was, by far, the most nervous I've ever been. I don't know why but I teed my ball up about five minutes before my name was called to the tee. Looking back it was fortunate because I probably couldn't have teed it up when I was called as I was shaking so much. It was a wee heely drive up in the air, it wasn't bad but it was about 100 yards shorter than everybody else's. Up until I'd won the Amateur, the Walker Cup was never on the horizon for me but here I was involved in it."

Watson still has his ambitions as he looks forward to the 2013 campaign. The amateur game at the top level may be something of a closed shop for those who are not full-time – Watson will stick to the more traditional weekend events like the Tennant Cup and the Battle Trophy on the domestic circuit – but he maintains that there still should be open doors for those of a certain vintage. "You always like to think you'd get a wee chance of playing in the national team again," added Watson, who earned the last of his numerous Scotland caps in 2004. "The focus is very much on the young boys, whether they're any good or not.

Could someone in their mid-30s or older get in the Scotland team now?

"You'd have to win a few tournaments, but even if you were consistently getting top-fives I don't think you'd get in. If the older players are still playing in the same events, they should have the same chances as everyone else. You never know, though . . . I'm quite friendly with one or two of the selectors."

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