Golf: Robert MacIntyre on course for historic win

TWO years ago, a notable ‘leftie’ proudly lifted the Claret Jug above his head at Muirfield, claiming the Open Championship for the first time.
Robert MacIntyre on his way to a 3&2 victory over Greig Marchbank in the semifinals. Picture: Kenny SmithRobert MacIntyre on his way to a 3&2 victory over Greig Marchbank in the semifinals. Picture: Kenny Smith
Robert MacIntyre on his way to a 3&2 victory over Greig Marchbank in the semifinals. Picture: Kenny Smith

Today, at the iconic venue, another left-hander, this time a promising teenager, will seek to achieve his own piece of history over the renowned layout.

It was Phil Mickelson’s moment in 2013, but who will join Muirfield’s roll of honour in the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship final?

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At the home of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, Glencruitten’s Robert MacIntyre is bidding to become the first left-hander in living memory to lift the Scottish Golf Union’s flagship title.

The former Scottish Youth and Scottish Boys Stroke Play champion will face Daniel Young from Craigie Hill, the reigning South African Amateur champion, in the 36-hole showdown. It promises to be a cracking final between the Scotland international duo, with entry free for all spectators to come along and enjoy the action.

After a day of tight matches, played out in an ever stiffening breeze over the famous East Lothian links, MacIntyre and Young came through demanding tests to set up their first-ever match-play meeting.

Both are seeking to emulate last year’s champion Chris Robb and other past winners, including Charlie Green, Colin Montgomerie and Stephen Gallacher, at Muirfield’s first staging of the Scottish Amateur since 1968.

MacIntyre saw off George Burns by one hole in the quarter-finals, before finishing strongly to defeat Thornhill’s Greig Marchbank 3&2.

Young, meantime, defeated Stuart Robin 3&2 then claimed a 2&1 victory over Graeme Robertson from Glenbervie.

Drawing on his matchplay experience after his victory in South Africa in March, Young – coached by Ladybank’s Sandy Smith – went two up on Robertson at the short 13th after a glorious tee shot before winning a see-saw battle on the 17th with a closing birdie.

The 23-year-old, whose previous best in the event was the fourth round at Royal Dornoch in 2012, said: “My experience in South Africa definitely helped, no doubt. I just took it one round a time out there and then the next thing I was in the final, so this week has been much the same.

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“My game has been solid enough all year and my game suits here as you have to be pretty sharp, as the rough is so penal when you are off line.”

MacIntyre, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on Monday, was all square with Marchbank after 12 holes before decisively winning three in a row.

Asked if he was aware of the history he was chasing being a left-hander, he said: “It’s just a different way of swinging it! I said to my caddy that pars in from the 13th would win it due to the course being the toughest it has played all week in the wind. So it proved, as Greig made a couple of mistakes.”

MacIntyre, who represented Team GB at the Youth Olympics last year and is coached by George Boswell, added: “I would love to win this event. It was nice to see the trophy on display today and I was thinking ‘I want that’ but you have to beat the guy in front of you.”

In the morning quarter-finals, MacIntyre was four up after six holes against Burns, the conqueror of top seed Grant Forrest. Williamwood’s Burns found his form, though, and the match was all square after 16. But three putts for a bogey six at the long 17th ultimately cost Burns dear, as MacIntyre made par at the last to squeeze home.

Marchbank went even further against Angus Carrick, eventually progressing to the semi-finals at the 20th. Carrick, seeking to win the event 30 years after his father, David, produced an early trio of birdies to go two up, but Marchbank – who came back from three down with five to play to win a crucial semi-final singles match en route to Scotland lifting the European Amateur Team Championship – dug deep to square the game after 14.

Douglas Park’s Carrick edged ahead again, but his double- bogey six at the last, after he found trouble in the greenside bunker, allowed Marchbank to level before his winning birdie at the second extra hole.

Robertson and past champion Barry Hume reeled off six birdies between them in their opening five holes, but it was the former, last year’s beaten finalist, who held the edge until Hume squared a high-quality match on the ninth and the 12th. Hume, from Haggs Castle, missed a good chance at the 13th before Robertson won the next two with pars, after Hume missed both greens with his approach shots, and went on to register a 2&1 win.

Young and Prestwick St Cuthbert’s Robin were unable to find a birdie between them in the bottom quarter-final match, but it was the Perthshire player who proved the steadiest to triumph 3&2.