THE odd eyebrow was probably raised when the Scottish Golf Union decided on The Duke’s instead of one of the St Andrews Links Trust courses as the venue for August’s European Individual Amateur Championship.
An event that will coincide with the tenth anniversary of The Duke’s being bought by American businessman Herb Kohler, however, will showcase a remarkable transformation of the Craigtoun course in that time. Laid out by five-times Open champion Peter Thomson, it initially lacked any real impact. Its look, however, has changed totally since Kohler employed Tim Liddy to revamp it.
David Scott, director of operations at The Duke’s said: “Many millions have been put into the changes, which have included improving the subsoil.”
The European amateur, to be held on 6-9 August, will be the biggest event at The Duke’s since Wallace Booth won the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship there in 2008. It’s the first time the event has been held in Scotland since Irishman Brian McElhinney won at Nairn in 2003, with Lee Westwood having lost out in a play-off when it was held a decade prior to that at Dalmahoy.
One of only four amateur events in world golf that earn the winner qualification for a major, the prize on offer in August will be a return to St Andrews for next year’s Open Championship, meaning there will be ample incentive for the home contingent as they bid to emulate Stephen Gallacher, the 1994 winner in Finland.
Gallacher recalled: “The European Amateur Championship is a great event. My win got me into the Lancome Trophy and it has featured guys such as Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino. It was a fabulous experience for me at that young age.”
This year’s event coincides with a Scot, Colin Wood, holding the EGA presidency and SGU chief executive Hamish Grey, describing that as “appropriate”, and hopes it will also produce a tartan triumph.
“It’s important that we try to use home advantage to the maximum,” said Grey.