Golf: Scottish Home Internationals team still not chosen
HE’S the back-marker in the field but not seeded. He’s in the Great Britain & Ireland squad but not yet in the Scotland side for the Home Internationals in a fortnight’s time. In short, James White’s current situation probably sums up the strange scenario yesterday at the outset of the Scottish Amateur Championship.
In essence, it’s down to a couple of factors. First and foremost, White and the other Scottish squad players who enjoyed an eight-week winter training trip to South Africa at the start of the year have not performed even remotely close to how they would have wanted or the selectors will have expected.
Just in case anyone gets the wrong end of the stick, that’s neither a criticism of those players as they are all hard-working individuals or casting doubt on the merits of such trips to sunnier climes, especially when they have been undertaken at a minimal cost to the SGU through sponsorship.
Another factor is the governing body’s decision to formalise its qualification process for events such as the Home Internationals, next week’s European Individual Championship at Carton House, outside Dublin, and the Eisenhower Trophy, won by Scotland for the first time in 2008, later in the year in Turkey.
That document was aimed at painting a clear picture in terms of what players have to achieve to make certain teams – a forward step, surely. But for the Home Internationals it has thrown up some interesting automatic selections, though, again, that has been partly caused by others failing to fire on all cylinders.
As things stand, Glenbervie’s Graham Robertson, the top seed here and already safely through to the second round, is the only member of the ten-strong Scottish national squad certain to be donning dark blue in the four-cornered event on the Ayrshire coast. Barassie’s Jack McDonald will definitely be joining him, as will fellow automatic qualifiers Paul Ferrier (Baberton), Ross Bell (Downfield), Matthew Clark (Kilmacolm) and Scott Borrowman (Dollar), but it almost seems inconceivable that all the entire South African seven have headed into the SGU’s flagship event relying on selectors’ picks. The good news for them is that five are now available instead of three, a consequence of the automatic spots not having been filled due to a proviso that the four players being selected off the world rankings had also to be in the top 15 on the SGU Order of Merit and Brian Soutar, for instance, is 28th.
When it comes to the crunch, past performances will be taken into account and, having played in the last three Home International series, White would seem to be a certainty to earn one of those picks. Nevertheless, the former Scottish Boys’ champion was pleased to be among the first-day winners at Royal Dornoch, as were fellow squad members Fraser McKenna (Balmore) and Scott Crichton (Aberdour).
“I was a wee bit surprised not to be seeded but there are so many different ranking systems at the moment and I’m not high enough in any of them, so I can’t argue with that,” said White, who did, however, question the points-weighting system now in operation with the Order of Merit. “It now suits guys who play every week, winning isn’t as big a deal as it used to be,” noted the affable Fifer after reeling off six birdies in a row from the ninth in beating the Glen’s Neil Henderson, a quarter-finalist last year.
McKenna, winner of the Scottish Champion of Champions at the start of the domestic season, kicked on after the turn to account for Windyhill’s Steven Maxwell, while Crichton, perhaps regaining the form that saw him claim some notable scalps out in South Africa, eased past Burhill’s Callum Mackay in his opening joust.
Two of the aforementioned national squad are already out. Despite being one-up playing the last, Pollok’s Conor O’Neil lost to a 19th-hole birdie from Merchants of Edinburgh man Brian Erskine, while, late on the opening day, Kirkhill’s Paul Shields suffered a shock exit at the hands of East Kilbride’s Ross Hinshelwood. The reward for Hinshelwood is a second-round clash with Craig Lawrie, who marked his debut in the event with a hard-earned 3 and 2 win over Aboyne’s Paul Simpson and was straight on the phone to dad Paul, who is in Akron. Ohio, preparing for this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, to break the good news. “Apart from one hole, I played awesome,” said the 17-year-old.
Shields was the sole seed to go out on day one, Robertson and McKenna safely being joined in round two by Bell and Ferrier. Soutar, McDonald and Clark, the other seeded players, enter the fray today.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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