Golf: Scots hit qualifying standard

Scott Crichton: Nerve-wracking. Picture: Kenny Smith
Scott Crichton: Nerve-wracking. Picture: Kenny Smith
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ROOKIE professional Paul Ferrier and Scott Crichton, who has entered the marathon as an amateur to keep his career options open, were the only two Scots amongst 20 qualifiers from the European Tour Qualifying School first stage event at The Roxburghe.

The list also included Gareth Wright, who plays under the Welsh flag yet has lived in Edinburgh for 17 years, but the experienced Paul O’Hara slipped out of the qualifying zone in the fourth and final round and so, too, did amateur duo James White and Graeme Robertson.

James Byrne was also amongst those who missed out, agonisingly by a single shot in his case after the two-times Northern Open champion bogeyed his final hole.

On a tense last day at the Kelso venue, Swede Philip Eriksson secured top spot, a closing 69 for a ten-under-par total of 268 giving him a three-shot victory over English duo Zane Scotland (70) and Jamie Moul (72).

Wright, still feeding off the confidence he gained from playing in all four rounds of this year’s Open Championship at Muirfield, secured a share of fifth on three-under after a closing 74.

“I did what I needed to do,” said the 31-year-old, who also made the cut in last month’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. “I struggled on the greens, but probably hit it as well as anyone over the four rounds.”

Wright was playing in the first stage for only the second time, having won the event at Carden Park in Cheshire in 2005. He failed to secure his card on that occasion, as well as two other visits to the final stage, but is feeling quietly confident about his chances of earning a seat at the top table in European golf on this occasion.

“I feel I’m a better and more rounded player now than I was those other times. I feel more confident about my game and, fingers crossed, I can go all the way this time,” he added.

Vindicating his decision to make the journey from his base in America, Ferrier also qualified comfortably, the Baberton man signing off with a 72 to finish joint-seventh on two-under.

A former Scottish Boys’ champion, he grew in stature when reaching the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship at Troon last year and has used a season playing mini-Tour events in the US to give himself a chance of earning a card for either the Challenge Tour or European Tour next season.

After matching Ferrier for the first three rounds, former Scottish Order of Merit winner White saw his hopes of passing this test for the second time in three years unhinged by a closing 77 that saw him slip down into a share of 23rd spot.

However, fellow Fifer Crichton clung on to his place in the top 17 and ties after the Aberdour man birdied the last for a 72, tying for 12th on level-par.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” admitted the former Cameron Corbett Vase winner. “I played pretty solidly all week from tee to green but, apart from the second round, I didn’t putt well. I thought level-par was going to be the mark to make it so I came to the last feeling I needed a birdie and managed to hole an eight-footer.

“It’s great that I have made it through this stage, but I’m going to stay as an amateur until I see what status I can get. If I fail on this journey, I will consider giving the Alps Tour a go.”

Byrne, who had moved within touching distance of a qualifying spot after a third-round 66, birdied four holes out of seven on his back nine before dropping that costly shot at his closing hole, the par-4 ninth.

Sharing 14th at the start of the day, former Scottish Amateur champion O’Hara slipped to joint-31st after a closing 76, while Robertson’s 78 left him tied for 39th.