On a day when home advantage was obvious – three of the eight players in the top quarter of the draw are Royal Aberdeen members – a local loon holding court in the clubhouse left Euan McIntosh to almost forget that he was here playing in the Scottish Amateur Championship.
“Not long before I was due to tee off, I was still listening to Harry Bannerman, whose patter is different class,” said McIntosh of the man who halved his singles match with Arnold Palmer in the 1971 Ryder Cup in St Louis and remains one of the great characters in Scottish golf.
McIntosh, who has just earned a Scotland return at the age of 47 after being reinstated as an amateur around a year ago, came through the ranks with Bannerman’s son, Stuart, before both of them moved to Germany.
Recalling a time he’d played on this very course with Bannerman snr, he said: “He watched me hit a shot and said, ‘you need to get that big hook out of your game’ before adding, ‘that’s how you hit it’ after he’d driven off. I told him today, ‘that’s how I hit it now’ and he burst out laughing.”
In fact, McIntosh has reached the last 32 despite “struggling a bit”, having heaved a sigh of relief after being four up with four to play before beating Mount Ellen’s Eamon Bradley 2&1. “I made a couple of juvenile mistakes to bogey both the 15th and 16th before he holed from 40 feet at the 17th and I had to follow him in from 30 feet to avoid going up the last,” he reported.
The Turnhouse man had been hoping to fix up a lesson ahead of this week with his coach, Braid Hills Golf Centre-based Colin Brooks, only to find out the 1986 winner is indisposed after having his tonsils removed. “You don’t find your game at a golf tournament, especially on a course like this,” said McIntosh in reference to the Balgownie Links playing tougher than it did for the 2014 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. “I must have had 45 swing thoughts out there – it was like the old days of being a professional – and hopefully I can have a good night’s sleep then come out tomorrow and not have any thoughts at all.”
His fourth-round opponent is Aboyne’s Craig Stephen, who knocked out Peebles player Darren Howie. The winner could meet Howie’s big brother Craig, who claimed the Scottish Boys across the fence at Murcar Links four years ago and also helped Scotland retain the European Team title in France earlier this month, in the last 16. “I always look at the draw,” admitted McIntosh with a smile. “And, while experience is what has won me my three games so far, I won’t get away with playing like that against either of the Craigs tomorrow.”
On a day when Cawder’s Jamie Savage, pictured, became the first seed to crash out – Tantallon’s Calum Hill claimed that scalp with an impressive 6&4 success – and three other internationalists, Matt Clark from Kilmacolm, Kirkhill’s Craig Ross and Calum Fyfe from Cawder, also made exits, the host club had plenty to shout about.
There will be at least one Royal Aberdeen player in the last 16, in fact, because 38-year-old Steven Buchan meets his 18-year-old clubmate, Fintan McKenna, in the first match out this morning. “I could probably handle it better than him,” joked McKenna, who was on the reserve list until Scottish No 1 and 2012 winner Grant Forrest pulled out, of Buchan suggesting they had a night out in the Granite City before locking horns.
Buchan, a three-time club champion, is proving that accuracy is the key on this course. “I’ve been 50 yards behind everyone I’ve played so far off the tee, but I’ve managed to keep it straight and that works here,” he said. On meeting McKenna, who shot a course-record 62 at Royal Burgess in the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play last year, he added: “We actually just met for the first tie today when we were waiting on the second tee!”
Making up the strong Royal Aberdeen presence in that top quarter is four-time club champion and seven-time stroke-play club champion Mark Halliday, who recovered from being three down to win his third-round match at the 20th. “If Mark gets to the semi-finals, he has a great chance,” predicted Buchan.
Defending champion Robert MacIntyre progressed safely, as did his GB&I team-mate Connor Syme, who birdied four holes in a row from the tenth after being hauled back to all square at the turn by Muckhart’s Robert Watson.