Sam Locke’s switch to the professional ranks before getting the chance to defend his title, coupled with US Open qualifier Ryan Lumsden also being a notable absentee, has left this week’s Scottish Amateur Championship wide open at Blairgowrie.
Scottish Golf’s flagship men’s event looked to have been handed a major boost as Locke, who beat Lumsden 9&8 in last year’s final at Prestwick, produced a polished performance to claim the Silver Medal as leading amateur in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie. Heading into that event, it had been the 19-year-old’s intention to try to retain the Scottish title in Perthshire as part of his plan to make next year’s Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool, but his debut display in the game’s oldest major triggered a different course of action.
Instead of taking his place among 264 hopefuls at Blairgowrie, Stonehaven lad Locke is preparing to play as a professional for the first time in this week’s Swedish Challenge, having made the decision to leave the amateur ranks following a sitdown last week with his mentor, Paul Lawrie.
Locke has also signed for the Five Star Sports Agency, a new company set up by Lawrie, and will be hoping he can hit the ground running in an event hosted by Ryder Cup vice captain Robert Karlsson that gets underway in Katrineholm on Thursday.
In Locke’s absence, Lumsden would have been a strong favourite to go one better this week as he is the top-ranked Scot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, sitting 92nd – more 100 spots clear of next best Euan Walker of Kilmarnock (Barassie). The Royal Wimbledon player also did brilliantly to come through one of the toughest final qualifiers for the US Open at Shinnecock Hills last month.
However, Lumsden is missing, too, from the field set to battle it out over two rounds of stroke-play on the Lansdowne and Rosemount courses at Blairgowrie, where the top 64 will then progress to a match-play phase that runs through until Sunday.
The event is the last chance for players to get themselves in the mix for the three-man side that will represent Scotland in next month’s Eisenhower Trophy, won by Calum Macaulay, Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear in Australia just under a decade ago.
The top Scot in WAGR on 1 August is an automatic selection for an event taking place this time around at Carton House, near Dublin, so Lumsden is in, with the two other spots being determined by selectors’ picks. Having just missed out on GB&I selection for the St Andrews Trophy in Finland last week, Walker is a strong contender, with the likes of Sandy Scott (Nairn) and Rory Franssen (Inverness) among the others in the frame.
In total, this week’s event attracted 273 entries, with the handicap ballot falling at 4.7. As always, it’s a mix of youth and experience in the field, the latter including host club member Glenn Campbell, who claimed this prize 13 years ago at Southerness.
Others with the nous to negotiate two different formats successfully over six days include Matt Clark and Euan McIntosh, who fought out a thrilling last-day battle in the recent East of Scotland Open at Lundin. The champion on Sunday will secure an automatic spot in the side for the Men’s Home Internationals in September.