Martin Dempster: Ewan Scott the one to watch
A FORTNIGHT today, Monifieth will be buzzing as the domestic season gets under way with the Scottish Boys Championship.
It’s the first time the Angus course is hosting the traditional curtain-raiser and competition will be fierce as the cream of the country’s under-18 talent battle it out to follow in the spikemarks of previous winners such as Ronnie Shade, Sandy Stephen, Andrew Coltart, Steven O’Hara and Scott Henry.
A total of 255 players – in what is thought to be a first time the entry has come up one short – will set out in the opening round on Monday week, the hopefuls again including both of tournament sponsor Paul Lawrie’s sons, Craig and Michael, the former having his third crack at the title after playing at both Dunbar and Murcar Links over the last two years.
This will be the 24th anniversary of my first Scottish Boys assignment – Mark King, a likeable lad from Shotts, was crowned champion back in 1989 at Dunbar – and, as always, it will be fascinating to see events unfold and ponder if we are clapping eyes on the game’s latest ‘boy wonder’.
In match-play, of course, the big guns can easily go out early. Just ask Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods after their first-round exits in last month’s WGC event in Arizona. Yet, and I sincerely hope for his sake that I am not tempting fate here, heading into this year’s Scottish Boys there is one player sticking out above the rest like a sore thumb.
Since losing in the final a year ago – he went down heavily in the 36-hole title shootout to Borderer Craig Howie – Ewan Scott has emerged as one of the outstanding talents in the home of golf’s amateur ranks. He landed the Scottish Youths’ Championship at Ladybank last summer, gained some great experience partnering Marc Warren in the Dunhill Links Championship later in the year and, since the start of 2013, has racked up a string of eye-catching performances all over the globe.
The 17-year-old from St Andrews helped Team GB land the gold medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival, reached the semi-finals of the South African Amateur Championship and, last week at Mission Hills in China, he finished fifth overall but won his own category in the Faldo Series Asian Grand Final. The latter, in particular, was hugely impressive.
As things stand, Scotland’s prospects of providing a strong representation in the Great Britain & Ireland side that will defend the Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America later in the year don’t exactly look too promising. Jack McDonald, sitting 100th, is our top-placed player in the world rankings followed by Scottish champion Grant Forrest (157th), Graeme Robertson (173rd) and Chris Robb (242nd).
Scott isn’t really on the world radar at the moment – he’s actually 315th – but that’s because he’s only started to play in men’s events. He’ll have chances to start making inroads over the coming months in some of the biggest events on the Great Britain & Ireland circuit and can then really look to make his presence felt when he takes up a scholarship at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga later this year.
It’s not surprising that the Scottish Golf Union – Scott is a member of the Boys’ Performance Squad this year – are keen to keep the teenager’s feet on the ground and, at the same time, not push him too hard. “Ewan has had a great start to the season,” acknowledged Performance Manager Steve Paulding. “But we’ll need to sit down and look at the schedule as what worries me is that he has had a very busy winter and there’s the danger of burn-out.”
Yet, if Rhys Pugh can represent Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup at the age of 17 – the Welshman was a member of the triumphant team at Royal Aberdeen in 2011 – then what’s to stop Scott doing the same? Rather than say this year’s match is too early for him, let’s trumpet his undoubted talent. After all, while it may have been satisfying when Wallace Booth, Gavin Dear and Callum Macaulay landed Scotland’s first amateur world team title in 2008, it’s just as important to have a tartan touch in every Walker Cup.
Only once in the past 20 years – at Royal County Down in 2007 – has the GB&I team had less than two Scots in it for the biennial joust, so there is no shortage of incentive for the likes of Scott, McDonald and Robertson when the domestic season starts in earnest at the Lytham Trophy and is quickly followed by events such as the St Andrews Links Trophy, Brabazaon Trophy and, of course, the Amateur Championship.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
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