8am Round-Up: Jack McDonald set to turn pro

Jack McDonald looks set to turn pro. Picture: Jane Barlow
Jack McDonald looks set to turn pro. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Walker Cup player Jack McDonald is on the brink of turning professional and could be set to join Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke as a client of International Sports Management (ISM).

The Scotsman believes the 23-year-old is poised to join the paid ranks in the next few days, having secured an exemption into next week’s final stage of the PGA EuroPro Tour Qualifying School at Frilford Heath.

It is also understood that Andrew “Chubby” Chandler’s ISM company has expressed interest in signing McDonald, the 2012 Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year from Kilmarnock (Barassie).

McDonald burst on to the scene when he won the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play Championship at Ladybank in 2009 at the age of 16.

He reached the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon in 2012 before repeating that feat at Carnoustie last year.

A former British Universities’ champion, he was part of two notable team triumphs in 2014, helping Scotland win the European Nations Cup at Sotogrande then tasting Palmer Cup glory with Europe.

Last year, McDonald was in the Scotland side that won the European Team Championship in Sweden before helping Great Britain & Ireland lift the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham, where he followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Gordon Cosh, by playing against the Americans in the biennial clash.

Having decided not to try his luck at the European Tour Qualifying School last year, it was believed that McDonald, an applied mathematics graduate from the University of Stirling, was set to play another full season in the amateur ranks.

Indeed, having been out to Australia and South Africa with the Scottish Golf in the early part of the year, he was named last week among seven Scots in the Great Britain & Ireland squad for the St Andrews Trophy this summer.

However, it now seems McDonald has decided to take the plunge into professional waters in time for the third-tier PGA EuroPro Tour swinging into action in mid-May.

If he signs for ISM, McDonald will join the likes of Clarke, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick and Scott Jamieson on Chandler’s client list.

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Two players from prominent Scottish golfing families figured in a four-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Qualifying School first stage at Haggs Castle in Glasgow.

Both out early, Zack Saltman (Archerfield Links) and John Henry (Clydebank & District) carded matching 69s before seeing two other players, including Edinburgh-born Reeve Whiston, also sign for three-under-par opening efforts.

Saltman, the younger brother of Elliot and Lloyd, picked up four birdies in the first six holes then had four bogeys in the middle of his round before posting three more birdies in the last six holes.

Henry, whose older brother, Scott, is on the Challenge Tour, had four birdies on his card, including the first and last - both par-5s.

Whitson’s father, Kevan, was the professional at Turnhouse before moving to Royal County Down. A product of the Irish system, the youngster made his promising start with a round that contained six birdies.

Later in the day, Englishman Colin Maroney made it a four-way tie for the lead in the 36-hole shoot-out after starting with an eagle then adding three birdies.

On a packed leaderboard, no less than nine players are sitting a shot off the pace, including home hopefuls Kevin McAlpine, James Hendrick, Michael Paterson, Fraser Moore, Scott Stewart-Cation, Ryan Campbell and James Steven.

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Duncan Stewart’s closing 69 saw him finish joint-third behind English winner Andrew Marshall in the MENA Tour’s El Jadida Championship by HLO in Morocco.

Stewart, who hails from Grantown-on-Spey but now lives in Edinburgh, set the clubhouse target after his six-birdie salvo for a level-par 216 aggregate.

As player after player failed to beat that, he ended up with only Marshall and Austrian Florian Praegant finishing above him.

Two behind at the start of the day, Marshall’s closing 72 for a five-under total saw him enjoy a four-shot turnaround on Praegant following his 76 that included five dropped shots in the last six holes.

“I really like the MENA Tour,” said Stewart, who finished second in the circuit’s inaugural Qulaifying School earlier this year. “It’s very relaxed, is played over good courses and the standard is getting better.”

Dunbar’s Neil Fenwick backed up Stewart, who is attached to Turnhouse, by finishing joint-fifth in his first start of the season.

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Jack Nicklaus will replace Arnold Palmer on the World Golf Hall of Fame Commission Panel, joining Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam.

“Being elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame, especially with the inaugural class (of 13) in 1974, was one of the unquestioned highlights of my career,” said Nicklaus. “It was a sign of respect and validation for the hard work I put into a game I have always loved and considered the greatest game of all.

“To now have the opportunity to join the Selection Commission, including my friends Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player—all great players, wonderful people, and all highly respected in our game—gives me the opportunity to perhaps make someone else’s career and life very special with this honour.”

Also announced today was a change to the qualifying age. Effective immediately, candidates must be at least 50 years of age at the start of the year in which selections are made, replacing the previous age requirement of 40.

The exception would be if a player was at least five years removed from being an active participant on his or her respective Tour.

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Scotland made a winning start in the Under-16 Boys’ Quadrangular International at Hilton Templepatrick in Northern Ireland.

After sharing the foursomes 2-2, the Scots won the afternoon singles 5-3 for a 7-5 win over Wales.

Hosts Ireland lost 6.5-5.5 to Netherlands in the other match.

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Stirling and St Andrews are on course for a title showdown in the Scottish Students’ Championship at Moray.

It follows both teams recording comfortable quarter-finals at the Lossiemouth venue, where Stirling now take on Highlands and Islands while St Andrews are up against Strathclyde.

The women’s event, which is being played on an individual basis, sees two Stirling team-mates - Gemma Batty and Chloe Goadby - meet in the final.