Comment: First stroke-play double in April needs to be last

A total of 246 players took part in last week's Scottish Boys' and Girls' Open Championships at Monifieth and Montrose Links, the respective line-ups including the cream of the crop among under-18 golfers in this country, as well as Germany and some other European nations.

John Paterson was a worthy winner of the Scottish Boys Open in Angus. Picture: Kenny Smith
John Paterson was a worthy winner of the Scottish Boys Open in Angus. Picture: Kenny Smith

It was the first time that the two stroke-play events had run concurrently in April, and it should be the last because the scoring proved exactly why that particular slot had been better for a match-play tournament, having been the traditional date for the Scottish Boys until this year.

Out of those 246, just five finished below par, and that’s despite the handicap ballot for the boys’ event having fallen at 4.3 while the highest handicap in the girls’ field was 7.2. Food for thought on its own, surely, for Scottish Golf when it sits down to consider if this particular fixture switch was the right decision. If not, then it really needs to take some other scoring statistics from last week into account.

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In the boys’ event, it was reported that the 144 players were a cumulative 2,249 over par after two rounds when the cut fell at 11-over-par. By my arithmetic, the 43 players who played in all four rounds were then a combined 691 over par at the finish. Only the winner, John Paterson from St Andrews New, ended up below par and, even then, he only just got into red figures.

It was a similar story in the girls’ event, though, admittedly, German Hannah Leonie Karg was in a class of her own in that, finishing 
10 shots clear of the field with a superb 12-under-par total over 54 holes. Even taking that into account, the cumulative total for 62 players was 681 over par, having been 1,521 over par for 102 competitors as the cut in that came at 17-over after two rounds. No matter what way you look at it – and bear in mind that the weather wasn’t too bad, albeit the first two days were a bit on the blowy side – nothing at all in those statistics give any encouragement whatsoever to this “experiment” needing to be continued.

Scottish Golf may well point to the boys’ event having attracted 216 entries - the highest number apparently in 12 years – and the girls’ tournament being over-subscribed by 22 players, but that’s not the point here. It’s about giving players the best chance to be properly prepared for an event like this and that’s certainly not by having it first up on the schedule at this time of the year.

What was the difference with the Scottish Boys, I hear you ask. Well, in match-play, the odd bad hole doesn’t have nearly the same impact as it does in stroke-play. It can be overcome a lot easier, as quickly as the next hole, in fact. Games don’t necessarily need to be as sharp overall as they do to score well in stroke-play.

Of course, the question that also needs to be asked based on last week’s scoring is about the overall quality of the players in both events, and, Karg apart, it could well be the case that the fields at both Monifieth and Montrose Links were a bit short in that respect compared to previous years.

I’ll hold my hands up here and admit that the bar for me in this particular boys’ event was set by Stephen Gallacher, having covered his back-to-back victories at Crieff
and Monifieth in 1991 and 1992, and that is perhaps a bit unfair to the current crop of youngsters given what the Bathgate man has gone on to achieve in the game.

At the same time, though, it’s only natural that one should be looking at this event, having also been won by the likes of Craig Lee, Barry Hume, Scott Jamieson, Scott Henry, James Byrne, Jack McDonald, 
Robert MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson since then, to provide a glimpse of Scotland’s next generation of potential Tour players, so who might that be?

Having produced two eagles – it could easily have been three as he missed a five-footer at the last – in closing with the best score of the event, a 67, Paterson was certainly a worthy winner, although, at the same time, Old Ranfurly’s Jamie Stewart let the title slip from his grasp by dropping three shots on the back nine in the final round.

Having made his presence felt in some men’s events out in South Africa earlier in the year, Stewart looks a decent prospect, as do Eric McIntosh, last year’s Scottish Boys’ winner from Bruntsfield Links, and Darren Howie, the young Peebles player who backed up his third-place finish by carding two 65s to also make the prize list behind his older brother, Craig, in the 
Craigmillar Park Open at the 
weekend.

There’s talent there, no doubt, but let’s allow them to shine rather than making it look as though they are struggling to break par.