ME AND my shadow? Not yesterday and Ewen Ferguson found that strange. His every move on the golf course in recent weeks seems to have been watched by Nigel Edwards. It points to the Bearsden teenager being a genuine contender for the Welshman’s team when he leads Great Britain & Ireland into battle in the Walker Cup at Royal Lytham in September.
“In my last four events, I feel as though Nigel has watched every hole I’ve played,” said Ferguson, the No 2 seed, after advancing to the second round of the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship at Muirfield with a 3&2 win over Scott Graham from Arbroath Artisan. “That tells me I’ve got a chance, which is cool because this time last year I wasn’t even in the picture.”
I’ve got a chance, which is cool. This time last year I wasn’t even in the pictureEwen Ferguson
As things stand, it certainly isn’t fanciful to believe that two of the ten spots up for grabs will be claimed by Scottish players. Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest and Jack McDonald from Barassie, after all, already had decent claims before each picked up five points from six in helping Scotland become European champions in Sweden earlier this month.
Also in that team, Ferguson might just increase the ‘Tartan Army’ in Lancashire to three, though the Irish, in particular, have a posse of players, including Open Championship surprise package Paul Dunne, pushing strongly. The 19-year-old isn’t your typical Scottish sportsman. He oozes confidence and relishes being in the spotlight. He almost makes Bradley Neil, who is cut from the same cloth, look shy in comparison. But, like the 2014 Amateur champion from Blairgowrie, Ferguson has a game to back up his persona.
A week after suffering a sore quarter-final defeat in this event at Blairgowrie two years ago, he won the British Boys’ Championship at Royal Liverpool. The Scottish Boys’ title also fell to him in 2014. Edwards, the GB&I captain, and his fellow selectors have had him on their radar on the strength of some eye-catching performances this season in men’s events.
“That’s a really hard one,” replied Ferguson to being asked where he thought he stood in the Walker Cup picture. “I’d probably say I was a little outside of the team due to the fact there are so many guys playing well. But, if I could win either the Scottish Amateur or US Amateur, then I’d probably make the team. Playing in the Walker Cup is certainly a goal. If I don’t make this one, then I’ll wait and get in the next one.”
Prior to the weekend, Ferguson’s only previous visit to Muirfield was as a spectator at the 2013 Open Championship. “I watched Matt Fitzpatrick then and he was really impressive,” he said of the Englishman, who won the Silver Medal as leading amateur on that occasion and is now challenging for his breakthrough European Tour win. Helped by some meticulous preparation in a six-hour practice round on Sunday, Ferguson didn’t have to break sweat in his opening encounter. “I played nicely and was especially pleased by a good up and down from an awkward spot in a bunker at the par-3 13th,” he reported. “That was a key moment as I was in danger of going back to two up but went four up.”
On a day when summer threatened to break out around lunchtime before the heavens opened in the early evening, McDonald also progressed, as did 2001 winner Barry Hume and former Scottish Boys’ champion Craig Howie. A semi-finalist in last month’s Amateur Championship at Carnoustie, McDonald is ticking along nicely at the moment, as Christopher Rossi (Western Gailes) discovered to his cost in a 6&5 defeat.
“I was three up after seven holes and played really nicely,” said McDonald, who is trying to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather Gordon Cosh, the winner here in 1968. “The course is set up so well and it was playing lovely this morning with just a wee breath of wind.”
Hume, who turned back the clock to reach the semi-finals at Downfield 12 months ago, would have been delighted to have beaten Erskine’s Michael Dailly by any margin. The fact it was by 5&4 showed he’s in the mood for another title tilt. “I last played competitively here in the 1998 Amateur Championship, when Sergio Garcia won the event,” said Hume, 33. “I actually hadn’t played the course since then up to about a month ago when I had a game. A few memories came back, as it’s more about playing this course rather than the opponent.
“It’s a quality field this week, and there are some tough draws. Even in the first round, you have to be right on it. Playing Michael was maybe a third or fourth- round match in the past, so it shows the level of player here.”
On a day when Scotland cap Matt Clark discovered that as the Kilmacolm player was sent crashing out by Longniddry’s Michael Bacigalupo, Howie highlighted how being first on the tee could be a big advantage with the rough being on the nasty side. “I’ve realised very quickly that it’s important to get the honour and put pressure on your opponent by hitting the fairway,” said the Peebles player after rolling in three lengthy putts in a row, including a 25-footer for an eagle at the ninth, in his 5&3 win over Irvine’s George Robertson.