Golf: Smail glad to progress after player switch

GREG SMAIL, the Craigielaw junior captain, was relieved to win his first-round match in the Scottish Boys' Championship at West Kilbride after being thrown by a last-minute change in the draw.

Smail, a 17-year-old who is in sixth year at Musselburgh Grammar, faced Lanark's Craig Boyd instead of Jevin Wilkie of Downfield after the latter withdrew.

And he looked to be in trouble on the Ayrshire coast when he boarded the 16th tee trailing his new opponent by one hole.

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But, after squaring the match at the 17th, Smail won through at the 19th, where he did well to get up and down for his par-4 after going through the green with his approach.

"The fact my opponent changed messed with my head a bit, so I'm relieved to have come through this one," said Smail, who played at Monktonhall before moving to Craigielaw four years ago.

On a good opening day for the East Lothian club, Euan Mackay and Grant Forrest also progressed to the second round. Out in the worst conditions early in the day, Mackay overcame a potential banana skin as he beat the host club's Cameron MacLean 4 and 2, while Forrest, one of the pre-tournament favourites, was a 3 and 2 winner against Leven Thistle's Cameron Mitchell.

"Grant is probably a step above the rest of the Craigielaw boys here this week, but it's great for us all to be able to both practice and play with someone like that," added Smail.

Winner of the Scottish Under-16s Championship a few miles up the coast at Largs last summer, Forrest said he had to do a lot of improvising in the strong wind to negotiate his opening test.

"It was horrendous out there," he said. "It was all about trying to keep the ball under the wind and you had to be both instinctive and imaginative."

West Linton's Fraser Thain, who finished second to Forrest in the Scottish Under-16s, also progressed to round two with a two-hole win over Saline's Greg Dunsmore.

After three-putting the 17th to lose that hole, Thain did well to hold his nerve to hole a six-footer at the last to clinch his victory.

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Among the other Lothians players to progress on the opening day were Craigmillar Park's rising star Willem Kerr, promising Bathgate youngster Louis Gaughan and Anthony Blaney of Liberton. Blaney now meets Crieff's Sean Gadsby – the player he'd never met before they went out for a practice round together on Sunday.