Old guard comes to fore at Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship

Matthew Clark plays his approach to the 16th green at Royal Aberdeen. Picture: Kenny Smith
Matthew Clark plays his approach to the 16th green at Royal Aberdeen. Picture: Kenny Smith
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While eyes may be cast to the up-and-coming young hopefuls chasing the Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen, don’t forget the ‘old’ guard.

In an era when young players often take the pro plunge early, an experienced core are enjoying a successful spell in 2016 and could well be in the mix come the week’s conclusion over the renowned north-east links.

As Robert MacIntyre, aged only 19, stayed on course to defend his title after the left-hander survived a first-round scare, the likes of Kilmacolm’s Matthew Clark illustrated that an older head could prove key over a tricky test that places a premium on accuracy.

Clark is 34 and juggles his golf while working as a bank manager in Inverurie, as well as family life with two young children. It hasn’t stopped him earning a fifth straight Home Internationals cap for Scotland next month, with former pros Barry Hume, also 34, and Euan McIntosh, 47, to join him at Nairn. His form continued at Royal Aberdeen, progressing to round two with a 3&1 success over Linlithgow’s Edward Shannly.

Clark, bidding to go past the fifth round for the first time this week, said: “There are a lot of good players; it’s a stronger field than it has been. There are a lot of names that are beginning to come through, as well as more experienced players here.

“The obvious two contenders are Connor Syme [aged 21] and Robert, given their seasons, but Barry [Hume] will be handy round here, Craig Howie is playing great, and the likes of Euan and myself could get it going. My hat goes off to Euan. I think what he has done this year is nothing short of remarkable for someone to come back into the game, after pretty much ten years out, and show a level of consistency at Scottish Golf level.”

Another experienced figure, albeit in his late 20s but also juggling golf, work and a young family, is Glenbervie’s Graeme Robertson, pictured above. The former GB&I cap won the Craigmillar Park Open earlier this season and is making a bid for another Home Internationals berth, with the final two team places finalised post-events at Royal Aberdeen.

The 2014 Scottish Amateur runner-up at Downfield said: “I think I’m playing better than two years ago. I don’t practice as much as I used to, but I play a couple of times a week. This is my seventh Scottish Amateur and I guess I do feel a little under the radar.”

MacIntyre, meanwhile, had to dig deep to begin his defence. With few surprise results in round one – Inverness’ Rory Franssen perhaps the only notable casualty – the Glencruitten player was up against it when he was bunkered at the 18th in his match against Harburn’s Christopher Curran. But MacIntyre produced a brilliant recovery, splashing out from 40 yards to close range to secure a two-hole win.

“I was four up after seven holes and eventually hung on,” said the runner-up in the Amateur Championship a few weeks ago. “Chris is a good player and it was good to get a tough match early doors.”

Another talented teenager, Nairn’s Sandy Scott, also reached round two, joined by reigning Scottish Boys champion Eric McIntosh (Bruntsfield Links).

Meanwhile, South African Amateur champion Craig Ross led a number of leading names to seal spots in round three. While the knockout format can often throw up surprises, the flagship Scottish Golf event has largely gone to form. Ross, drawing on his matchplay success in South Africa, eased past Hazlehead’s Greg Ingram 4&3.

With the second round ties beginning late yesterday after the first round was completed, the Kirkhill player was joined in round three by Hume (Haggs Castle) and Connor Syme (Drumoig).

Syme was made to fight all the way before seeing off Lawrence Allan from Alva on the 18th. The hopes of local player Michael Lawrie (Deeside) were ended in a 2&1 defeat by Liberton’s Kieran Cantley.