Euan Walker is hoping he can bowl over the home crowds on his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship debut - after being paired with former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan.
Walker, who tied for 40th in the KLM Open in Amsterdam in his first professional start earlier in the month, starts out with keen golfer Vaughan in the pro-am event at St Andrews on Thursday.
“I’m looking forward to playing again on the European Tour,” said the Kilmarnock (Barassie) man, who brought the curtain down on his career in the amateur ranks with a Walker Cup appearance at Royal Liverpool.
“I practiced with Bob MacIntyre on Monday and briefly today. So that was great to play with a good friend who has had much success already on tour. It was great to hear what he has been doing and how he has been enjoying life on tour.
“Teaming up with Michael Vaughan is also exciting, I don’t know much about cricket, but it will be great to meet such an experience sportsperson and somebody that has been successfully at the highest level of their sport.
“Otherwise it will be great to test myself again against the best players in Europe and do my best to improve my performance from the KLM Open a couple of weeks ago.”
Also making his debut in the event is Calum Hill, who has already secured his European Tour card for next season through sitting top of the Challenge Tour rankings with a handful of regular events remaining.
“It is brilliant to get an invitation this week, especially for an event you have watched in the past, including being up at St Andrews as a fan a few times,” said the 24-year-old, who used to live around an hour away in Dalgety Bay.
“I played the Boyd Quaich, a college event, on the Old Course and have played once at Kingsbarns 10 years, but I have never played at Carnoustie before my practice round there on Tuesday.
“You can get good and bad sides of a draw at three venues and you just have to manage the conditions the best you can.”
This is Hill’s second European Tour appearance, having used a top-30 finish in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club to go on a blistering run of form.
Back on the Challenge Tour, he won the Euram Bank Open in Austria and the Made in Denmark Challenge in three starts, finishing third in the Finnish Challenge in between then finishing third again shortly afterwards in the Rolex Trophy.
As a result of all that, he’s sitting 126th in the world rankings, not too far behind 86th-ranked Russell Knox and stablemate Bob MacIntyre in 96th.
“It’s about having a nice week in another home event and gaining some experience for next season while, at the same time, trying to have a good week,” added the Gleneagles Hotel-attached player, who is at Kingsbarns for his opening round.
“It was a good run I had in the summer. I think the performance in the Scottish Open set me up for the next month or so, which was good. Hopefully another good performance here can set me up for the rest of the season and also heading into next season on the European Tour.
“I’m hoping to get a third win on the Challenge Tour (which would secure an automatic step up to the top circuit) but, failing that, it would be great to finish the season in the top spot as the higher up you finish the better it will be for next year.”
Another home player getting his first taste of this event, Orlando-based Knox is enjoying the special atmosphere in St Andrews with his wife, Andrea.
“I said to my wife when we got here and were walking around the town that there are very few places that we have ever travelled to that have the aura of St Andrews,” he said.
“Even if you are not a golf fan something about it seems very special. If you are a golf fan then it is heightened 100-times. It is a very cool place. Obviously being Scottish and a professional, it is extra special.”
He’s won a WGC in China, an event on the PGA Tour and the Irish Open, one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series tournaments, but this would probably top the lot.
“Everyone would love to win in their home country,” admitted Knox, who starts out at St Andrews. “I have had a couple of decent efforts at the Scottish Open. This is my debut in this event so it would be great to play well.
“I have heard it is a nice, relaxing week and sometimes that can bring the best out of a golfer. Hopefully that will be what happens with me.”
The field for the 19th edition of the event contains 11 Scots in total, the others being MacIntyre, 2004 winner Stephen Gallacher, Grant Forrest, Liam Johnston, David Drysdale, Richie Ramsay and David Law.