Sunday, August 01, 2010

SGU Board will consider championship change at next meeting

Scottish Amateur likely to have

qualifying rounds when Stewart

defends at Western Gailes

When Michael Stewart defends the Allied Surveyors Scottish men’s amateur championship in his native Ayrshire next July, it will almost certainly have a new format for the first time since the Scottish Golf Union started its flagship tournament in 1922.
SGU chief executive Hamish Grey explained at Gullane, where Stewart, a 20-year-old +4 player at Troon Welbeck, beat Jordan Findlay (Fraserburgh), 22, by 3 and 2 in the 36-hole final:
“At the next meeting of the SGU board, on the agenda will be a proposed move to start the championship with two qualifying rounds of stroke-play, which would produce the field of 64 for the match-play stages.
“It’s a big change but World Amateur Rankings are becoming more and more important for a number of reasons and stroke-play rounds are required for that. It means of course that future venues for the championship have to have either two courses or two courses within close proximity of each other.
“We’re fortunate that the next five venues already chosen all meet these requirements.”
Next year’s host club is Western Gailes . Glasgow Gailes would be a perfect “partner,” with the field playing one qualifying round at each.”
Royal Dornoch has already been selected to host the “Scottish” in 2012 and Tain or Brora could be the No 2 course brought into use for the qualifying.
SGU president Bert Leslie considers himself a traditionalist and accepts the view that match-play and stroke-play are two completely different forms of competitive golf.
“But we have to go with the flow. The British amateur men's and boys' championships have qualifying rounds, so has the English amateur championship and, whatever my personal feelings, the Scottish Golf Union has to be a forward-looking body – and stroke-play qualifying is the way ahead for our national championship.”
For the top players, like Michael Stewart, a scratch player since he was 15 years old and now possessing a +4 rating, the change will not make the slightest difference. The two “major” titles Michael has won – the 2008 Scottish boys’ championship and now the 2010 Scottish men’s title – both had match-play formats but he is just as talented a player at the card-and-pencil game.
Stewart, the No 3 seed last week, was four under par in beating Jordan Findlay by 3 and 2. He was three under the card for the morning round at the end of which he was three up, and one under par for the 16 holes played in the afternoon.
“I am not going back to East Tennessee State University for another two years,” confirmed Stewart, a confident but likeable young man with a short game as good as Paul Lawrie once had.
“I want to play for Scotland in the world amateur team championship for the Eisenhower Trophy in Argentina later this season and, next year, for Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup match at Royal Aberdeen.
“I want to be close to the people who can help me become as good a player as possible before I turn pro: namely Ian Rae my coach and the Scottish Golf Union.
“So I am a full-time amateur for the next 18 months at the end of which I will be ready to go to the European Tour School , probably as an amateur.”
This week Stewart, still suffering from a mild form of shingles diagnosed on the eve of the Scottish championship, is off to Finland with James Byrne, Ross Kellett (last year’s runner-up), Philip McLean, Kris Nicol and Greg Paterson, courtesy of the SGU, to play in the European men’s individual amateur championship.
Had that squad of six been selected last week, Jordan Findlay would almost certainly been in it but the Fraserburgh 22-year-old’s Bob Torrance-guided major swing changes of two years ago did not really kick in until June. World amateur rankings are the guiding force in team selections these days and Findlay’s current WAGR ranking of No 986 – Michael Stewart is No 145 - does not reflect his current standing in the Scottish amateur game.
Findlay will be in the Scotland team to be named this week for the home internationals at Ashburnham, South Wales from August 11 to 13 but that could be his swansong in amateur golf.
“I am going back to the Tour School qualifying process. I failed to get past Stage 1 at Dundonald last year but I feel I am a better player now than I was 12 months ago. I think my performances at Gullane proved that although I’ve never doubted that I would get back to the level I was when I won the British boys in 2004 and lost in the final the following year,” said Findlay.
“When I won the British boys, I was four down at one stage of that 36-hole final, so I never gave up hope in Saturday’s final when I was four down after 15 holes that I could turn it around.
“I played my best of the week from tee to green in the final. It was my putting that let me down. If I had putted as well as I did to beat James Byrne in Friday’s semi-final, then I would have won the title.”
Findlay, who did not have a bogey from the eighth hole until the 29th, was one under par for the 34 holes of the final.

+What's your view on the distinct possibility that the Scottish Amateur will start with two stroke-play qualifying rounds in future years? E-mail it to



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