The 17-year-old Blairgowrie player is one of the leading home contenders in the Scottish Men’s Open - the first multi-day event to be staged by Scottish Golf since the Covid-19 outbreak - at Southerness over the next three days.
Bernard Gallacher won the event’s inaugural staging at Muirfield back in 1967, with subsequent champions including Gordon Brand Jnr (1980), Colin Montgomerie (1985), Andrew Coltart (1991), Stephen Gallacher (1995), Richie Ramsay (2004), Tommy Fleetwood (2009) and Andy Sullivan (2011).
It is the third time the 72-hole stroke-play tournament has been held at the highly-regarded Dumfries-shire venue, where Barry Hume delivered a home success in 2002 before England’s Garrick Porteous landed spoils 11 years later.
Due to ongoing travel restrictions due to Covid, this year’s 144-strong field consists mainly of players from Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales, with Graham hoping to produce a strong Caledonian challenge along with the likes of James Wilson, Jamie Stewart, George Burns, Calum Scott, Connor Wilson and Ruben Lindsay.
“This is the first big one of the year and the start of a busy run of big tournaments,” said Graham of the St Andrews Links Trophy being next up then the Amateur Championship at Nairn almost straight after that. “It is exciting to get going again and seeing where my game is at higher levels again.”
Graham, last year’s Stephen Gallacher Foundation Trophy winner, played with 1999 Open champion Lawrie along with former Scottish Boys’ champion Wilson in the opening round of a Tartan Pro Tour event at Royal Dornoch.
“It was massive to play in a couple of the recent Tartan Pro Tour events, and I really appreciated those opportunities as I will be ready for when I am under pressure again in amateur events,” he said.
“Paul was so steady and didn’t make any silly mistakes. He was missing it in the right places, that was one of the biggest things I picked up. He’s just a smart golfer.”
Graham, who passed his driving test earlier this week, is looking forward to continuing to receive valuable advice from Lawrie in his role as a mentor for Scottish Golf.
He also feels lucky to have been paired with current European Tour player Calum Hill in a “buddy” system launched earlier this year by Bounce Sport and the Stephen Gallacher Foundation.
“Calum is a great guy,” said Graham, who is set to follow in the footsteps of Coltart and fellow European Tour winner Dean Robertson by heading to Midland Junior College in Texas later this year.
“I’m so happy to have him to lean on and the information he has given me has been massive already. It’s great to see how hard he works and he has been encouraging me to be as productive as possible when I am practising.”
In an event taking place at Southerness in the year the club is celebrating its 75th anniversary, the top 40 and ties after two rounds will progress to the final 36 holes on Sunday.