Two double European Tour winners and the son of a former Open champion will be among the hopefuls in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier at Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth on July 2-3.
As was the case in the inaugural PGA in Scotland event at North Berwick last year, five spots will be up for grabs in the 36-hole contest, with the lucky quintet on this occasion joining a star-studded field on July 7-10 at Castle Stuart.
Alastair Forsyth, a winner in both Malaysia and Madeira on the European Tour, played in the event there on all three occasions when the Inverness course staged the tournament from 2011-13, twice finishing in the top 30.
The event also produced two top 10s for the five-time World Cup player during its lengthy stint at Loch Lomond, including eighth behind South African Tim Clark in 2005.
Eleven years on, Forsyth has joined the PGA training programme as he mainly concentrates on a new coaching role at Mearns Castle Golf Academy on the outskirts of Glasgow, but the 40-year-old is coming out of semi-retirement to see if he can secure a return visit to Castle Stuart.
“It’s great that the PGA pros and a few others such as PGA EuroPro Tour guys and top amateurs get an opportunity to qualify for such a first-class tournament,” said Forsyth ahead of the qualifier, which is supported by Aberdeen Asset Management, EventScotland and the European Tour. “Castle Stuart is a fabulous course and it also looks stunning on TV so is a great advert for Scotland.
“We all have to thank Aberdeen Asset Management, not just for this opportunity but for all they do for Scottish golf. It would be great, if possible, to see similar groups of players in Scotland competing with each other more often.”
Breaking off from Challenge Tour action, having secured invitations from Aberdeen Asset Management, to try and secure a spot alongside a host of major winners at Castle Stuart are Fifers George Murray and Peter Whiteford, as well as Jack Doherty, while James Byrne and James Ross are returning from the Far East and the United States respectively to play at Lossiemouth.
The line-up also includes three of last year’s qualifiers - Tartan Tour trio Graham Fox, Gareth Wright and Greig Hutcheon, the latter having made the cut at Castle Stuart in both 2011 and 2013, as well as at Royal Aberdeen and Gullane over the past two years.
“I would really like to get in again,” said 43-year-old Hutcheon, who is attached to Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Inchmarlo. “Last year’s qualifier was a great event with a really high standard and the make-up of the five players who progressed was a nice mix.”
Craig Sutherland, who was born in Orkney but is now based in Kent, contributed to that, as did Calum Hill, a 19-year-old amateur who qualified playing over his home course.
Among the six players selected by Scottish Golf on this occasion, Moray member Kyle Godsman will be aiming to emulate Hill as last year’s Scottish Order of Merit winner joins Calum Fyfe (Cawder), Scott Gibson (Southerness), Liam Johnston (Dumfries & County), Craig Ross (Kirkhill) and Jeff Wright (Forres) in locking horns with the pros.
Sutherland has withdrawn but others in the field include last year’s Tartan Tour No 1 Chris Kelly, another two-time European Tour winner in Stephen McAllister and Craig Lawrie, the oldest son of 1999 Open champion Paul.
It will also be a family affair for the three Saltman brothers - Elliot, Lloyd and Zack - and likewise for Paul and Steven O’Hara.
Martin Gilbert, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, said, “Here at Aberdeen our Scottish roots are very important to us, as is supporting Scottish golf at all levels of the game.
“We are therefore very proud to give aspirational Scottish golfers the opportunity to play in the Scottish Open through this qualifier.
“We look forward to welcoming the five qualifiers at Castle Stuart and maybe even seeing one of them lift the Scottish Open trophy, what a fairytale for Scottish golf that would be!”
Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland, added: “Through our EventScotland team we are delighted to once again be supporting the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open Qualifier, where Scottish golfers have the unique opportunity to qualify to play in their national open in Scotland, the Home of Golf.
“Moray will provide a fantastic setting for the event and shows the strength in depth of quality golf courses in the Highlands, which is already one of Scotland’s most popular golf tourism destinations.
“The excitement for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open returning to Castle Stuart is already building and nowhere will that excitement be felt more than at Moray GC during the qualifier. I’d like to wish all the players the best of luck in qualifying and I look forward to seeing some of them at Castle Stuart.”