A former PGA champion and two members of a winning Walker Cup team will be among the hopefuls in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier at Kilmarnock (Barassie) Golf Club this weekend.
Being staged for the third year in a row in order to give Scottish players a chance to play in their home Open, four spots will be up for grabs in the 36-hole contest, with the lucky quartet joining a star-studded field at neighbouring Dundonald Links next week.
Among those bidding to secure one of those prized spots in the £5.5 million Rolex Series event is Scott Drummond, who enjoyed his finest hour in the game when winning the European Tour’s flagship event, the PGA Championship, at Wentworth in 2004.
The 43-year-old no longer plays on the European Tour but has been keeping his hand in by competing on mini-circuits and will be looking to get in the mix at the Ayrshire venue on Saturday and Sunday.
The field also includes some local players who should receive lots of support as they try to secure berths alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler on July 13-16.
Jack Doherty, who lives in Kilmarnock and is attached to Rowallan Castle, is bidding to pass the test with flying colours again, having carded rounds of 68 and 70 for a one-shot victory in last year’s event at Moray Golf Club Lossiemouth.
Three of the four others to qualify on that occasion - Kris Nicol, Peter Whiteford and Gareth Wright - are also trying again, with the odd man out being former European Tour winner Alastair Forsyth.
Like Doherty, Jack McDonald would be a popular qualifier on this occasion, even more so probably given that he will be bidding to pull off that feat at his home club.
Indeed, he became just the club’s third honorary member, joining Jim Milligan and Gordon Sherry, after being part of Great Britain & Ireland’s winning team in the 2015 Walker Cup at Royal Lytham.
“It is great to have a chance on my home course to qualify for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open,” said McDonald, who is now in the pro ranks, where he has been playing on both the Challenge Tour and Alps Tour this season.
“I’ve not actually played there that much this year, probably only once or twice, but I am really looking forward to it and I think there will be a good buzz about the club over the weekend.”
Bearsden’s Ewen Ferguson, another member of that triumphant team in Lancashire, joins Ferguson among the hopefuls, as do two sets of brothers - John and Scott Henry and Paul and Steven O’Hara.
John Henry heads into the event on the back of finishing second on the PGA EuroPro Tour last week while Paul O’Hara has won both the Northern Open and the Titleist and Footjoy PGA Professional Championship in recent weeks.
The field also includes Greig Hutcheon and Chris Currie, the two Scots who have earned places in the team that will defend the PGA Cup at Foxhills in Surrey in September.
Other players bidding to extend a good record in the event for PGA pros include Graham Fox, Gavin Hay, Ross Cameron, Chris Kelly, Keir McNicoll, Louis Gaughan, Scott Henderson, Greg McBain Paul McKechnie and Graeme Brown.
Also in the line-up is Craig Lawrie, the oldest son of 1999 Open champion Paul, as well as Andrew McArthur and George Murray, while six amateurs will be aiming to upstage the pros after being nominated by Scottish Golf.
They include host club member Euan Walker, who is being joined by 2016 South African Amateur champion Craig Ross (Kirkhill), Sandy Scott (Nairn), Rory Franssen (Inverness), Jeff Wright (Forres) and Graham Murray (Moray).
They will all be aiming to emulate Tantallon’s Calum Hill, who made it through the inaugural qualifier at North Berwick two years ago to play at Gullane.
LET event in Thailand
Kelsey MacDonald’s warm up for next week’s US Open is likely to be restricted to 36 holes after getting off to a nightmare start in the Ladies European Tour Thailand Championship.
The Scot carded two double-bogeys and five bogeys as she opened with a nine-over-par at Phoenix Gold Golf & Country Club this morning.
It was MacDonald’s first competitive outing since she qualified for the third women’s major of the season, which is taking place at Trump Bedminster in New York.
Home player Chonlada Chayaun set the clubhouse target in the Thai event with a four-under 68 to lead by three shots from Germany’s Karolin Lampert and Norway’s Madelene Stavnar
Michele Thomson 75.
Three other Scots - Vikki Laing, Pamela Pretswell and Kylie Henry - were among the later first-round starters.
American Stewart Cink is looking forward to being back in Ayrshire, scene of his 2009 Open win, for next week’s Scottish Open.
“I’m excited to be teeing it up at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open,” he said, having secured a sponsor’s spot for the £5.5m Rolex Series event.
“The greatest moment of my career happened in Ayrshire, so I obviously have fantastic memories of the area.
“I’ve heard good things about Dundonald Links, and I’m really looking forward to playing links golf in the week before The Open Championship.”
Cink joins a star-studded line-up, which is headed by Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott.
“It’s a fantastic field, so it will be a challenging, but no doubt enjoyable, week,” he added.
Ryan Campbell (Golf in Scotland) and The Renaissance Club’s Neil Henderson are top Scots heading into the second round of the PGA EuroPro Tour’s Dawson & Sanderson Classic in Northumberland.
The pair opened with matching three-under 69s to sit joint-sixth, three shots behind English trio Nick Watson, Nick Marsh and Paul Kinnear.
Irish international Eoin Leonard holds a six-shot lead heading into the final round of the Boyd Quaich in St Andrews.
The Yale University player has earned the healthy cushion after rounds of 67-67-66, with his closest challenger being Aberdonian Adam Fisher (Missouri University).