Golf: Strong field for SGU Order of Merit title showdown

THE Scottish Golf Union Order of Merit is set for an exciting conclusion when Mortonhall stages the final counting event this weekend.

Scottish champion Michael Stewart is missing from the field for the South East District Open on the Capital course due to the fact he's on GB&I duty in the St Andrews Trophy.

And that has opened the door for four players - Philip McLean (Peterhead), Jordan Findlay (Fraserburgh), Peter Latimer (St Andrews New) and James White (Lundin) - to snatch the title at the death.

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McLean is lying second, 56 points behind the leader, but the other three Scottish internationals can also deny Stewart if they win on Sunday.

James Byrne and Ross Kellett, the two other players selected along with Stewart to stage Scotland's defence of the Eisenhower Trophy later in the year, are also in Italy this week.

But the line-up for the South East event is still probably the strongest it has been in recent seasons.

McLean, Findlay, Latimer and White were all in the Scotland side that finished second to England in the recent Home Internationals in Wales. So, too, were Allyn Dick, Greg Paterson and Brian Soutar - and they're all in the field this weekend as well.

Dick, the Lothians champion, goes into the event lying 12th on the order of merit and the Kingsknowe man will have his sights set on climbing into the top ten.

Matthew Clark, the runaway winner of the Craigmillar Park Open earlier in the years, returns to the Capital bidding to complete a notable double. And Paul Shields will be aiming to follow up his play-off win last weekend over Steven Rennie in the North equivalent at Inverness.

But no-one in the field will be trying harder to impress this weekend than Greg Nicolson.

The Mortonhall man broke the course record on his home patch with a sensational 62 recently and is hoping he can make his presence felt by re-producing that form.

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"This is an event I've been looking forward to from the moment I heard it was being played here," admitted the 24-year-old.

Joining Dick and Nicolson at Mortonhall are a number of other leading Lothians lights, including newly-crowned order of merit winner Graham Robertson, Mark Hillson, Zander Culverwell, David Miller and Sean McGarvey.

Swanston New left-hander Malcolm Robertson is also in the field, as are three players who did well in the Scottish Amateur at Gullane - Dunbar's Stephen Neilson, Myles Cunningham of Craigielaw rising Musselburgh star Cameron Marr.

Marr is being joined by a number of other young Lothians players after they earned spots due to withdrawals over the past week or so.

They include Jamie McIntosh (Broomieknowe), Greg Smail (Craigielaw), Lee Morgan (Newbattle), Craig Johnstone (Royal Musselburgh), Scott Carmichael (Baberton) and Fraser Thain (West Linton).

Dalmahoy's Robert Carson is in as well now and will be hoping he's picked up some good tips after caddying for close friend Mark Kerr in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles this week.

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