Golf: Champion of Champions field is tougher then ever

ALLYN DICK will line up in a field full of amateurs for the Scottish Champion of Champions at Leven Links tomorrow – but it won't feel that way.

The Kingsknowe star believes the country's top amateurs these days are professionals in all but name.

"There's been a big difference over the last three or four years," observed the 31-year-old. "The top guys have been away on trips to America, South Africa, Portugal and Spain over the winter while guys like myself have been playing away in the cold. There's a lot more finance now when it comes to amateur golf, with players being funded by the SGU to play in events and also stay at them."

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Dick, a former Scottish Mid-Amateur champion and winner of last season's Cameron Corbett Vase at Haggs Castle, doesn't have any sour grapes, insisting he is merely commenting on the changing face of amateur golf.

"When you look at events like the Champion of Champions these days, it is really like amateurs competing against professionals," he added.

"The top amateurs don't work – they don't do anything other than play golf and are preparing for a full season ahead. For me, this is my hobby and it is hard to compete for someone who is playing two days a week to compete against someone who is doing that seven days a week."

Dick, who is flying the Lothians flag at Leven along with Craigielaw's Mark Hillson and Olly Huish of North Berwick, has been a regular in the Champion of Champions field in recent years.

"Unfortunately, my record in the event isn't great," he conceded. "I normally don't putt well early in the season and always seem to have problems on the greens at Leven. But I've been working hard on the range and also on the practice green I've got at home – I've been out there most nights."

This time last year Huish, the youngest son of former North Berwick pro David, was trying to secure a card on the EuroPro Tour. The 19-year-old may go back down that route in the future but, at the moment, he's happy working in the pro's shop at the East Lothian club and is looking forward to another full season on the amateur.

"I've been working in the shop for nearly a year and the plan is to do my PGA assistants' training at the end of the year," he said.

"After not touching a club for a couple of months, I didn't feel my game was ready to go back to the EuroPro Tour qualifying but I've been playing a bit more again recently and this weekend will be a good chance to test myself against some of the best amateurs in the country."

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They include Ross Kellett, Scotland's top-ranked amateur following the departure of Eisenhower Trophy-winning trio Gavin Dear, Wallace Booth and Callum Macaulay to the paid ranks.

Also in the field at Leven, where the event is being sponsored this year by John Smith's, is Tommy Fleetwood, the 19-year-old Englishman who shattered the record books when winning the Scottish Open Stroke Play Championship at Murcar Links last year. Scottish cap Glenn Campbell is the defending champion in an event that is followed by next weekend's Craigmillar Park Open, with Scotland captain Scott Knowles looking for some early food for thought in a year when he'll be leading teams defending the World and European titles.