Sunday, July 30, 2017

Howie hunts Walker Cup spot with Prestwick
performance in Scottish Amateur
Craig Howie hopes to bolster his Walker Cup hopes by going for glory at this week’s new-look Scottish men’s amateur championship at Prestwick (from Monday to Saturday, July 31– August 5.

The Peebles player, pictured, at 50th place in the world amateur rankings, is top-ranked in the full 264-strong field heading for the historic Ayrshire links.
Howie was among six Scots selected in captain Craig Watson’s initial 19-man GB and I squad for the Walker Cup match at Los Angeles Country Club in September.
The 22-year-old’s consistent season, which sees him currently sitting top of the domestic Men’s Order of Merit standings after winning the Craigmillar Park Open and finishing in a tie for third at the Carrick Neill Scottish men’s open stroke play, means he remains in the frame and he is now looking for a final push before Watson's side is named next month.
With Connor Syme and Liam Johnston contesting the Western Amateur Championship in America next week – Syme ahead of playing in the US Amateur Championship – and Robert MacIntyre taking up a Challenge Tour invitation before the US Amateur, Howie is among those hoping to capitalise on their absence.
The Borderer, a European amateur team winner with Scotland last year, said: “I go in high on confidence after a few good results and I’m looking forward to it at Prestwick. I’ve got an eye on the Walker Cup, obviously. It’s not long until the selection date now and a few good results would certainly do me no harm.
“There is so much incentive for me over the next two weeks, at the Scottish Amateur and the Home Internationals, to get some good results to really make the selectors think about selecting me.  I’ll be looking to qualify well at the Scottish and bring the trophy home – that has to be the goal.”

However, the former Scottish boys' champion is not underestimating the size of his task and added: “There is strength in depth this season, with a lot of the young guys coming through and doing great, the likes of Sandy Scott (pictured left), Jamie Stewart and Rory Franssen.
“Chris Maclean and Calum Fyfe are others who have been doing well, so the list goes on. There is plenty of competition there and it’s certainly not going to be a walk in the park for the best ranked players.”
In line with a number of other countries, the championship has changed from straight knock-out to 36-hole stroke play qualifying over Prestwick and Prestwick St Cuthbert’s, with the leading 64 players (and ties) reaching the match play stages.
In total, 284 entries were received for the new format, with the handicap ballot falling at 3.1. The winner will gain automatic entry to the Scotland team for next month’s Home Internationals, with two spots up for grabs to complete the 11-man side bound for Moortown, Leeds.
The field will also be out to join a winners’ list that includes the likes of Charlie Green, Colin Montgomerie, Stephen Gallacher and, more recently, David Law and Grant Forrest.
After Howie, Kirkhill’s Craig Ross, Scott from Nairn and Royal Wimbledon’s Ryan Lumsden are the next best ranked players, while Prestwick members such as James Bunch will hope to use their knowledge to challenge. 
After his surprise victory at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago, Windyhill’s George Duncan is the defending champion.
Prestwick, the birthplace of the Open Championship in 1860, last hosted the Scottish Amateur in 2007 when John Gallagher triumphed.
Entry is free to spectators at both Prestwick venues, with Scottish Golf running a dedicated media service from the event across their platforms. The action begins at 7.30am on Monday, with the final tee off at 3.10pm. The same applies for the second stroke-play round on Tuesday, ahead of the match-play action later in the week.



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