Robertson out to follow footsteps of Ernst’s success

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ONE has recently banked close to £800,000 after his first win on the PGA Tour, the other picked up a £500 voucher for victory in a Scottish amateur event.

Yet, less than a year ago, Derek Ernst and Graeme Robertson were locking horns in the college equivalent of the Ryder Cup.

They met in the last-day singles in the Palmer Cup at Royal County Down, where Robertson, a 24-year-old from Glenbervie, came out on top to help Europe pull off a fightback to match the one that followed at Medinah a few months later.

Even at the time, it was a notable scalp for the Scot but now he can boast that he’s beaten a PGA Tour winner after Ernst, a 23-year-old from California, pulled off a stunning victory in last month’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in just his eighth start on the circuit. “I was driving home from the Lytham Trophy feeling pretty pleased with myself after recording a top-ten finish when I got a phone call from Deano [Stirling University performance coach Dean Robertson] telling me that Derek had just won $1.2 million,” Robertson told The Scotsman.

“Fair play to him for winning so early in his professional career and the way I look at that is that maybe someone like myself isn’t as far from being able to do that myself as some people might think. You definitely need the odd break here and there.”

As Ernst bids to build on that fairytale start in the paid ranks – he’s playing alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in this week’s Memorial Tournament in Ohio – Robertson’s goals for the time being still lie in the amateur game. He’s hoping to land the Carrick Neill Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Southerness this weekend then make his presence felt in both the St Andrews Links Trophy and Amateur Championship in the coming weeks as he bids to earn a spot on the Great Britain & Ireland team to defend the Walker Cup in America later in the year.

“I definitely think I’ve got a chance of making that side,” he said. “I had a good Home International series last year [winning six points out of six as Scotland claimed the title at Glasgow Gailes] and was picked in the GB&I side for the St Andrews Trophy against the Continent of Europe. I think a lot of English guys are probably going to make the Walker Cup team this year.”

Fourth behind Frenchman Romain Wattel in the Scottish Stroke-Play at Glasgow Gailes three years ago, Robertson felt he a chance of winning going into the last round at Blairgowrie 12 months later only to stumble to a closing 81 as Englishman Andy Sullivan claimed the title.

“I’ve always enjoyed this event and I’m looking forward to it again,” said the world No 109.

“When I was out in South Africa with the SGU on its training trip earlier in the year, it was the first time I’d been away over the winter and, to be honest, I struggled over there.

“Since coming back, though, I’ve managed to get back into my routine and I’ve been fairly pleased with my start to the season. As well as the top ten at Lytham, I won the Battle Trophy at Crail and also came close in the Irish Open Stroke-Play at Royal Dublin, where I lost out in a three-man play-off. These are the events you are going to be judged on for the Walker Cup.”

Being played at Southerness for only the second time – Barry Hume shot a course-record 64 en route to the title in 2002 – the SGU’s flagship stroke-play event has again attracted a splendid field. A six-strong French contingent will be aiming to repeat recent successes in the event by Wattel (2010) and Paul Barjon (2012) while Haydn Porteous, joint runner-up a year ago, heads a South African challenge that also includes Tom Watson, who will be hoping the home of golf proves as lucky for him as his famous namesake.

Joining Robertson are Jack McDonald, last season’s Scottish Golfer of the Year, and Scottish Amateur champion Grant Forrest. Enjoying home advantage, Scott Gibson will also be hoping to make his presence felt on the leaderboard in today’s opening round, as will another local hope in Greig Marchbank, the leading Scot at Barassie 12 months ago and holder of the Scottish Boys Stroke Play Championship. “It’s great to see another good field for the event,” said Robertson. “There’s some good French players coming over, while the top South African and Australians are here, too. But, hopefully, a Scottish player can come out on top this weekend.”