Connor Syme survives leading qualifier’s curse in Wales

Craigielaw's Grant Forrest fought back to win his opening match by one hole at Royal Porthcawl.
Craigielaw's Grant Forrest fought back to win his opening match by one hole at Royal Porthcawl.
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Having survived the leading qualifier’s curse - 18 players in 32 years who held or jointly-held that position had crashed out in the opening round - Connor Syme now finds himself facing an all-Scottish rematch in the Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl.

On another challenging day in South Wales, Drumoig 21-year-old Syme started the match-play phase, where he is bidding to emulate Philip Parkin (1983), Warren Bladon (1996) and Matteo Manassero (2009) by winning the title as No 1 seed, with a 4&3 win over Spaniard Xabier Goropse.

He now meets Cawder’s Jamie Savage, the player Syme beat in the quarter-finals at Royal Portrush two years ago before losing to Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil, the eventual winner, in the last four in Northern Ireland.

“I didn’t quite play my best golf today but I ground it out quite well,” said Syme, who displayed his match-play process when winning the Australian Amateur Championship earlier this year. “I got up and down when I needed to and holed a few key putts, so I’m happy to get through the first round of match play.

“Speaking to my dad (PGA pro Stuart) last night, he said there had been quite a lot of attention on me being the leading qualifier. But I just kind of looked at it as, even having qualified first, there’s no real advantage when you get to the match-play, to be honest.”

Savage won his match at the 19th, as did Alva’s Lawrence Allan and Elderslie’s Alasdair McDougall after Haggs Castle’s Barry Hume, the oldest of the 79 qualifiers at 34, had bowed out in yet another match that went to extra holes.

Other Scots still standing include last year’s beaten finalist at Carnoustie, Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest, who turned around an early two-hole deficit, as well as left-hander Robert MacIntyre from Glencruitten and Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson.

“Last year I didn’t really have anything going coming into the event – I just kept plugging away and before I knew it I was in the final,” said Forrest, who now meets Swiss player Jeremy Freiburghaus. “It’s just staying patient and taking one shot at a time.”

Ferguson, the 2013 British Boys’ champion, faces McDougall in a second all-Scottish tie in the last 32 while Allan is up against Englishman Harry Hall.