Golf: East Lothian talent show

TALENT-SPOTTERS in East Lothian have had the privilege over the years of witnessing plenty of young golfers giving a glimpse of promise before going on to become leading lights in the game.

Sergio Garcia, for instance, was a fresh-faced 18-year-old when he won the Amateur Championship at Muirfield in 1988 while Paula Creamer, now a prominent player on the LPGA Tour, lined up in the 2002 R&A Junior Open at Royal Musselburgh.

Having since become a biennial event, the latter is not being held ahead of the Open Championship at Muirfield this year, but a new crop of kids seeking fame will still be out in force on the East Lothian coast in the build-up to the world’s oldest major.

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It has become the recognised home of the US Kids Golf European Championship, an event open to boys and girls aged six to 18 with competitors in the past having travelled from as far afield as Australia, Venezuela, Namibia and Guatemala.

Last year Reece Els, the 11-year-old nephew of Open champion Ernie, was in the line-up and excitement is building as five courses – Gullane No 2, Gullane No 3, Craigielaw, Luffness New and Longniddry – prepare to host the latest batch of hopefuls on 28-30 May.

“The opportunity to play on some of East Lothian’s historic courses is one of the main reason why this tournament has become so popular,” said tournament co-ordinator Alasdair Good, the head professional at Gullane.

“But, with The Open being held at next door Muirfield, I’m expecting a surge of interest in this year’s event as interest in golf in Scotland grows – and that’s before you factor in the buzz that has already starting over the 2013 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.”