Title-holder Soutar back firing on all cylinders
WITH due respect to the others in the field, Brian Soutar deserves to be the focus of attention as the domestic season swings into action with the Scottish Champion of Champions at Leven this weekend.
For starters. the local man is the title holder in the traditional curtain-raiser, having come from six shots behind at the halfway stage a year ago to record an impressive four-shot triumph on his home track on the Fife coast.
Moreover, it’s his first competitive appearance in Scotland since he became the toast of many a clubhouse in the Kingdom after winning the South African Amateur Championship during an eight-week trip to the Rainbow Nation earlier in the year.
Add the two factors together and it’s no surprise that Soutar is “feeling confident of my chances” this weekend, though he admits this event, as well as next week’s Craigmillar Park Open, are more warm-up affairs.
He already has his sights set on the first of the big tournaments that will play a key part in determining the three-man Scottish side for the Eisenhower Trophy in Turkey later in the year.
“I’m looking forward to defending at Leven, where the course is looking good for this time of year, but right now I’m focused on getting my game in as good shape a possible for the Lytham Trophy at the start of May,” said the 27-year-old, who closed with rounds of 68 and 67 a year ago to win comfortably from Wigtownshire County’s Kyle McClung.
Six days later, Soutar was in a good position in his bid to complete an early-season double at Craigmillar Park, only for a back injury to force his withdrawal at the halfway stage, then hamper the remainder of his campaign.
“I am probably a better player now than I was this time last year, although I felt if I hadn’t had my injury I would have had a successful season last year, having played the rest of the season 60 per cent fit at best,” recalled the Fifer.
Thanks largely to a combination of physiotherapy from Stuart Barton, strength and conditioning work with Karen Young and some swing changes with coach Colin Brooks, Soutar is back firing on all cylinders again.
That was evident as he kept the South Africa Amateur title in Scottish hands, emulating compatriot Michael Stewart as he defeated Brandon Stone, the top-ranked Springbok, 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final at Mowbray Golf Club in Cape Town at the beginning of last month.
Based on that alone, Soutar is entitled to now be starting as the favoutite heading into the first of the Scottish season, though the likes of Kirkhill’s Paul Shields and Scott Crichton of Aberdour also have their tails up thanks to the South African trip.
Shields shared the Northern Amateur Open title at Randpark after the final was abandoned due to flooding, while Crichton underlined his potential by winning all four matches in a Test match against the host nation at Leopard Creek.
“It was good to finish on a high in South Africa and now I’m looking for a solid start to the domestic season,” said Shields. “The Champion of Champions has a great field and is played on a great course. I just need to try and count my score right this time as last year I signed for a wrong one and was disqualified.”
Others bidding to get the new season off to a flying start this weekend include Downfield’s Ross Bell, the champion two years ago, 2011 SGU Order of Merit winner James White from neighbouring Lundin, and Dunbar’s Danny Kay, who reached the final of last year’s Scottish Amateur Championship.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
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