A new format and new slot hasn’t stopped the Scottish Boys Championship attracting a full field of 184 as the event gets underway alongside the girls’ equivalent at Drumoig and Scotscraig on Friday.
Moved from its traditional April slot in a swap with the Scottish Boys Stroke-Play, the event starts with card-and-pencil rounds at each of the venues, with the top 64 and ties progressing to a match-play phase.
Peebles player Darren Howie is the backmarker in the boys’ field off +2.8 as he bids to follow in the footsteps of big brother Craig, who won this event at Murcar Links in 2012.
Howie is in good form for his attempt, having signed off with a 66 to finish runner-up in the Sir Henry Cooper Junior Masters, one of the top under-18 events in the UK, at Nizels last Sunday.
The player with the next lowest handicap in the field is defending champion Eric McIntosh, the Bruntsfield Links player having enjoyed an extended spell as title holder as a result of the event’s new position on the Scottish Golf schedule.
McIntosh is bidding to become the first player since Scott Henry achieved the feat in 2004-05 to win the tournament back-to-back while John Paterson heads into the event chasing a different double.
The New Golf Club St Andrews player won the Scottish Boys Stoke-Play Championship earlier in the year and is now bidding to match an accomplishment achieved by Ewen Ferguson as recently as two years ago by holding both titles.
Others who will be looking to still be involved when the event reaches the business end next Wednesday include Kirkhill’s Lewis Irvine while Ruari Mair will be aiming to maintain the form that saw the Buckpool player lift the Paul Lawrie Foundation Junior Jug at Fairmont St Andrews last weekend.
The line-up also includes Stephen Gallacher’s son, Jack, who plays his first round in the stroke-play qualifying at Drumoig whereas the likes of Howie, McIntosh and Paterson all start out at Scotscraig.
A much smaller field for the girls’ event is headed by Aboyne’s Shannon McWilliam, who plays off +3.5 and will be out to re-produce the form that saw her finish runner-up in the Helen Holm Trophy at Troon earlier in the year.
Her rivals include Jillian Farrell, the Cardross player who gave a good account of herself in the recent Scottish Women’s Championship at Royal Aberdeen before lifting the Stephen Gallacher Foundation Vase at Macdonald Cardrona.
In the girls’ event, the top 16 in both scratch and handicap sections qualifying for a knock-out stage, which saw Hazel MacGarvie from Troon Ladies prevail last year.
As an added bonus this time around, the winners of this week’s 36-hole qualifiers will receive invitations to play in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Pro-Ams next month.
The boy and girl with the best nett scores over the 36-hole stroke play qualifying in will be invited to play in the men’s Scottish Open Pro-Am on 12 July at Dundonald Links.
Invitations to the women’s Scottish Open Pro-Am at the same venue on 26 July will also be awarded to the boy and girl with the best gross scores.
“We are delighted to offer this opportunity, meaning the competition to win the 36-hole qualifiers will be more hard-fought than ever,” said Aberdeen Asset Management chief executive Martin Gilbert.
“We then look forward to welcoming the young golfers to Dundonald Links, offering them a great chance to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in the game and enjoy a valuable golfing experience.