Amateur Ross trying not to be starstruck in South Africa

Craig Ross will play in the South Africa Open this week alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy. Picture: Kenny Smith
Craig Ross will play in the South Africa Open this week alongside the likes of Rory McIlroy. Picture: Kenny Smith
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Craig Ross has upstaged a field of professionals once already, but it would be a tale of 
Hollywood proportions if the Kirkhill amateur achieved the feat again this week. For 
starters, it’s quite a step up from the Glenfarclas Open on the PGA EuroPro Tour to the BMW SA Open with Rory McIlroy as its headline act on the European Tour. There’s also the small matter of ring rust. Ross, after all, hasn’t had a card and pencil in his hand since August.

“The last time I played competitively was either the Home Internationals at Nairn or just after that,” said the 23-year-old. “So there’s been a bit of a gap in that respect, but I was away in Florida on a training trip with Scottish Golf before Christmas and that was helpful for this event and the others I’m playing in during my trip to South Africa.”

The same trip last year earned Ross this week’s exciting opportunity at Glendower. In becomng the fourth Scot in six years to win the South African Amateur Championship, he automatically secured what is a first European Tour appearance, one that will be made in the company of three compatriots, namely David Drysdale, Duncan Stewart and Scott Henry.

“I’m really looking forward to it, especially with Rory also playing here this week,” Ross said. “He’s one of the world’s best players and it will be great to test myself against someone like him. However, I have to go out and treat this event like any other one, really. I can’t afford to get star struck.” He’s sought advice from the two other Scots to be in the same position in recent years in this event. “I have spoken to both Mikey Stewart and Danny Young,” he added. “They both played this course and they’d told me that it was tree-lined with quite a bit of elevation changes on it. I’ve just got to go out and do my own thing. It’s a great opportunity and now it’s up to me to try to take it.”

Ross refused to get carried away on the back of his PGA EuroPro Tour triumph at Mar Hall in 2014. He also made a sensible move by postponing a switch to the paid ranks after seeing his game go off the boil last season. His coach, David Orr, appears to be doing a good job passing on sensible advice.

“The plan now is to turn pro at the end of this year,” said Ross. “I feel the changes I’ve made over the winter have made me a better player and hopefully I can get into events like the US Amateur later in the year. If I could make the Walker Cup then great, but that’s not a main goal – it’s getting a Tour card at the end of the year. I’d love to play in the Walker Cup, but it’s not my 
primary objective.

“I will always take massive confidence from my win at Mar Hall while I’ve also played in a couple of Challenge Tour events so know the standard I need to reach to compete with those guys. David played on the Challenge Tour himself and also on the main Tour, so he’s been able to pass on some great advice. He’s a top coach and also talks a lot of sense when it comes to course management. He tries to simplify things and give you an easier option all the time.”