Friday, July 30, 2010

Gullane semi-finals provide one eagle and 25 birdies

Golfing buddies Michael Stewart and

Jordan Findlay meet in 36-hole final

of Scottish amateur championship

Troon’s Michael Stewart and Jordan Findlay from Fraserburgh – foursomes partners for a winning Scotland boys team at Lossiemouth in 2006 and golfing buddies for the past nine years – will cross swords in tomorrow's  36-hole final of the Allied Surveyors Scottish men’s amateur golf championship over the Gullane No 1 course East Lothian.
“We’ll be opponents – but we will never forget we are and will remain good friends – said the 20-year-old Stewart, pictured by Cal Carson Golf Agency today, the No 3 seed who won the Scottish boys match-play title in 2008. “I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun – but serious at the same time, if that’s possible.”
Jordan, who went to the same American college – East Tennessee State University – as Stewart, said: “Michael and I have been friends for so long that playing each other in the championship final is not going to change that.”
Findlay beat the No 1 seed and fellow North-east player James Byrne by one hole in the first semi-final.
Stewart beat Stephen Neilson from Dunbar by 4 and 3 in the other.
Both matches were a tremendous credit to Scottish men’s amateur golf.
In perfect, windless scoring conditions, the two ties were from the top drawer of golf – a combined bag of one eagle and 25 birdies being produced between the four players.
Stewart touched the scoring heights with one eagle, six birdies and a bogey, making him seven under par in beating Neilson.
“I reckon I’m 25 under par for my last six ties and my putter got red hot at last this afternoon,” he said.
Stephen Neilson, who had a personal bag of four birdies and three bogeys, was actually two up on Stewart after birdieing the second, third and fifth.
Then Stewart turned the tide and won the next four holes to go two up at the turn, having gone out in four-under-par 31.
Stewart, who was diagnosed with shingles a week ago, says he tires more easily but doesn’t feel any pain from the viral complaint.
Jordan Findlay, who was British boys champion in 2004 and beaten finalist in the same event a year later, had eight birdies and two bogeys to be six under par in beating Byrne – and he had to be!
Byrne himself had seven birdies and two bogeys. Fancy being five under par in a championship semi-final and losing .. earlier in the day, Byrne had a hole in one in his semi-final win over Michael Smith (Royal Troon), his first-round conqueror from last year.
Stewart, in his morning quarter-final, was two under par in beating 19-year-old Jordan McColl (Scotscraig) by 4 and 3.
The Findlay v Byrne match would have made a terrific final. That is not to say that Findlay v Stewart over two rounds will not also be a classic. But I've been reporting on Scottish amateur championships back to the days of the late Ronnie Shade, Charlie Green, Ian Hutcheon, Hugh Stuart and Sandy Pirie - and I cannot recall two semi-finals where the scoring in BOTH matches was so breathtakingly good.
Findlay holed a bunker shot to halve the eighth in birdie 3s – it was that kind of stuff usually reserved for the pages of fictional golf..
And Byrne, two down going into the closing stages, almost clawed it back and probably would have done against a lesser player.
The Banchory man, ranked No 13 in the world, won back the 15th with a birdie 4 to be one down with three to play. But Findlay held him at bay as the last two holes were halved in birdie 3s.
Byrne’s last desperate bid to keep his bid to reach another glory final – he lost in the 36-hole final of the British championship along the road at Muirfield in June – was to hole from 20 ft for a 3 at the par-4 18th.
But Findlay was not going to let his grip slacken now. He followed him in from 7ft to claim a place in what has the makings of a classic final.
"Reaching this final makes all the hard work changing my swing worth while. Bob Torrance warned me it would rough to start with but that the new swing would eventually take me to a higher level. I never lost faith in my own ability although others might have had their doubts," said Jordan, not normally an excitable or emotional man but obviously delighted to be in his first big championship final since he won the British boys championship in 2004 and reached the final of that event the following year.
For Stewart, the coach who has made him a better player than he might otherwise have been is Huntly-born Ian Rae.

Results of semi-finals:
Jordan Findlay (Fraserburgh) beat *James Byrne (Banchory) 1 hole.
*Michael Stewart (Troon Welbeck) beat Stephen Neilson (Dunbar) 4 and 3.



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