Home players miss out on Scottish Boys' Open due to lowest-ever ballot

Close to 50 Scottish players have been left disappointed after missing out on next month’s Scottish Boys’ Open due to the lowest-ever ballot for the event.

The cut-off for spots in the tournament at Murcar Links on 6-8 April fell at 1.0, meaning just over half of the 98 Scots to enter have secured spots in the 144-player field.

Run by Scottish Golf, the event attracted a record 217 entries, with players from Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Austria set to join the cream of the under-18 crop in the UK and Ireland.

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California-based Niall Shiels Donegan, the newly-crowned Hawaii State Amateur champion, and Blairgowrie’s Connor Graham, who reached the semi-finals in the Scottish Amateur Championship at the same venue last year, are set to spearhead the home challenge.

Blairgowrie's Connor Graham is in the field for the Scottish Boys' Open at Murcar Links, where he reached the semi-finals in the Scottish Amateur last year. Picture: Scottish Golf

Taking place at the same time at Irvine, the Scottish Girls’ Open will feature 29 home players, with no one missing out, in a field increased to 144 this year from 102.

“Both Open events continue to grow and be extremely popular in their early-season slots, which is hugely positive,” said a Scottish Golf spokesperson.

“There were 98 Scottish boys’ entries this year, with just over half of those gaining a place and more may still due to withdrawals.

“We received record entries for the Boys’ Open and the quality of the field improves year on year, with the lowest-ever ballot at 1.0.

California-based Niall Shiels Donegan will be aiming to add the Scottish Boys' Open title to his weekend win in the Hawaii State Amateur Championship.

“Our Opens allow players the opportunity to play and benchmark themselves against the best under-18 players in Europe while we also run under-18 ‘closed’ championships for Scottish players only.”

For the first time, there will be a pre-qualifier for this year’s Scottish Men’s Open, which takes place at Cruden Bay on 27-29 May.

Being held at Fraserburgh on 24 May, the 18-hole shoot-out will have a minimum of 30 spots up for grabs in what is a pilot project.

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“We continually evaluate events and review handicap limits, field sizes, qualification process e.g. including the Girls’ Open field increasing to 144 and pre-qualifying for the Men’s Open,” added the spokesperson.

Grace Crawford, who is a member of the Albany Golf Academy in the Bahamas, is returning home to play in the Scottish Girls' Open at Irvine.

Among those set to join Shiels Donegan and Graham in flying the Saltire at Murcar Links are the three Mukherjee boys from East Lothian - Cameron, Oliver and Samuel - as well as Cormac Sharpe and Daniel Bullen.

As for the girls’ event, the home challenge is set to include North Berwick’s Grace Crawford as she pays a visit home from her spell at a top academy in the Bahamas, as well as Freya Russell and Robyn Fowlie.

European Tour players Stephen Gallacher, Scott Jamieson, Bob MacIntyre and Ewen Ferguson are all past winners of the Scottish Boys’ Open, as is Sky Sports commentator Ewen Murray.

The event was moved from a traditional summer slot to the Easter holidays in 2017, since when the title has been claimed by German Patrick Schmuecking and England’s James Ashfield.

Due to the Covid pandemic, both tournaments were last held in 2019, when Broomieknowe’s Hannah Darling landed the girls’ title over the Eden Course at St Andrews.

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