Area Team makeover offers rankings carrot

THE Scottish Golf Union is hoping that the chance to pick up world amateur ranking points will encourage the country's top players to support the Scottish Area Team Championship when it undergoes a radical makeover this year.

The event, which has been spread over the course of a season since it was first played in 1977, will have a new streamlined format over one weekend, the 16 Areas that make up the SGU battling it out for the title over the Montgomery and Bruce courses at Kinross on 15-16 May.

Six-man teams will play two rounds of stroke-play on the first day, with the leading five lowest scores in each of those qualifying rounds counting towards a team's aggregate. The top four sides will then go forward to the semi-finals the following morning with the final being played that afternoon.

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While the event has had a fairly low profile, it is hoped the format change and also the move to an earlier slot in the season will encourage Scotland's leading players to play for their respective Areas. The format is similar to that used for events such as the European Team Championship and the Scottish selectors will be using the Kinross tournament as part of their process in deciding on the side to defend that title in July.

"The changes we have made were vital to keep the event in line with our strategy of developing talent in Scotland, whilst also reducing costs on what was previously a very expensive championship to run from both a national and Area perspective," said Hamish Grey, the SGU's chief executive.

"The new format brings together all 16 Areas at a central location in what will be a celebration of amateur golf in Scotland. By introducing the stroke play qualifying, it will also allow players to compete for world amateur ranking points and the new date should ensure almost all of our top players will take part."

Lothians, with 13 wins, have been the most successful Area in the event, though last year the title was lifted by Renfrewshire.