Following the huge success of the inaugural event in East Lothian last year, another exciting Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Qualifier is on the cards in the Highlands this summer, with Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth taking over hosting duties on July 2-3.
The 36-hole event will carry a prize fund of approximately £50,000 and will offer five places in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which takes place at Castle Stuart Golf Links from July 7-10.
The event, which is staged in association with Visit Scotland, The European Tour and the PGA, was introduced to offer more Scottish players the chance to play in their national Open.
The first chapter at North Berwick produced a golfing fairytale, as local amateur Calum Hill claimed one of the places on offer in the main event at nearby Gullane as he raised his game to finish in the top five.
“The inaugural Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier was a great success last year and we are looking forward to building on that when the event is held this year at Moray Golf Club,” said PGA in Scotland secretary Shona Malcolm.“We are fortunate to be staging the event once again at one of Scotland’s top links courses and will continue to do so.”
Martin Gilbert, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, added: “Aberdeen are proud to support Scottish golf at all levels of the game, so to continue to provide this opportunity to up and coming golfers is very important to us.
“The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart itself offers four prized spots at this year’s Open Championship at Royal Troon. What a story it would be if a Scottish player was make it through this qualifying event at the fantastic Moray Golf Club.”
Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, commented: “In Scotland we pride ourselves on the fact that golf is an inclusive sport and one that is open to all. Giving golfers the chance to qualify to play in their national open is a prime example of that as well as giving us an opportunity to showcase Moray Golf Club, yet another wonderful links course in Scotland, the Home of Golf.”
After securing his spot in the event at Gullane, Hill played a practice round with Rickie Fowler, who went on to claim the coveted title.
“It was a great chance,” said Hill. “I learned a lot about myself playing in the qualifier. It was very well run and it was great being on the West Links at North Berwick.
“To qualify for the Scottish Open was an amazing experience. To finish strongly down the stretch in the qualifier was a great feeling, and the Scottish Open itself was something I will never forget.”
Craig Sutherland, who was born in Orkney but is now based in Kent, won the North Berwick event, beating West Linton PGA professional Gareth Wright in a play-off after they had tied on 130 (12-under-par).
The remaining spots were also claimed by two Tartan Tour players - Greig Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) and Graham Fox (Clydeway Golf).
“With some of our top players qualifying along with an English-based Scot and, of course, an amateur, it worked well last year,” added Malcolm.
Concurring, PGA Cup player Wright said: “To get to play in the Scottish Open is a fantastic opportunity and, with the tournament now being played on links courses, you are getting most of the top players playing to get ready for The Open.
“What Aberdeen Asset Management have done with the qualifying event is brilliant in itself as it is a great event with fantastic prize-money.
“For me to have to have secured one of the five spots for Gullane was just great and I am looking forward to this year’s event and hope for a repeat of last year’s success.”
The criteria will be the exactly same as last year, with a field of 144 being made up of exempt PGA players plus others PGA members and assistant professionals that enter, assuming they have Scottish nationality under the PGA’s eligibility requirements or are currently employed at a golf club in Scotland.
A number of amateurs will again be nominated by Scottish Golf while some sponsor’s invitations will also be issued.
Moray Golf Club has a long history when it comes to hosting tournaments, having staged a PGA EuroPro Tour event as recently as 2013, when Tartan Tour player Paul McKechnie claimed victory.