'Weekend golfer' James White eyes Leven Gold Medal glory

James White may class himself as a “weekend golfer” these days but the two-time Scottish Golfer of the Year is targeting a notable double in his beloved Fife this weekend.

James White shows off the East of Scotland Open trophy after landing a five-shot success at home club Lundin at the end of June. Picture: Lundin Golf Club.
James White shows off the East of Scotland Open trophy after landing a five-shot success at home club Lundin at the end of June. Picture: Lundin Golf Club.

The 33-year-old, who had a short spell in the professional ranks before being reinstated as an amateur, won the East of Scotland Open at home club Lundin for a second time in five years at the end of June.

Now White, a former Scottish Boys’ champion, is aiming to add the Leven Gold Medal as the historic event starts a new chapter with American Golf as its sponsor after taking over from Standard Life.

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The event, won in the past by current European No 1 Lee Westwood, as well as two other Ryder Cup players in Andrew Coltart and Per Ulrik Johannson, has been restored to its traditional 72-hole stroke-play format.

As a result, the field has real strength in it again, with White’s title rivals set to include Scottish Amateur runner-up Connor Wilson, James Wilson and Matt Clark.

The line up also includes Englishman Jimmy Mullen, who played on the winning 2017 GB&I Walker Cup team and now plays his golf at Ladybank.

“It’s brilliant to see,” said White of the tournament, which, having been inaugurated in 1870, holds the distinction of the world’s oldest amateur event, being restored to its proper stature.

“I’ve finished second twice, both times to Brian Soutar actually. I’ve also been third and fourth, so we’ll see how this weekend goes.”

White, who played on the Alps Tour for two years before deciding it wasn’t going to happen for him in the paid ranks, now works as an area manager for Cobra Puma Golf.

Carding rounds of 66-65-67-70 for a 16-under-par total, he showed he can still produce some cracking golf as he landed that East of Scotland Open triumph by five shots earlier in the summer.

“It was great,” said the plus-five handicapper of that success. “I won it in 2017, just after being reinstated, and now it seems like a shift in priorities for me as I don’t go into these events with expectations of being at the thick end of the leaderboard.

“To be up there at Lundy was a bit of a bonus, to be honest, as I just play around work these days and I’ve become pretty much a weekend golfer all year.

“I can get anything in the middle of the week, it’s a bit of a bonus. I think anyone working in golf at the minute is extremely busy.”

While White’s career path in golf may have taken a different route than he had initially planned, the Stirling University graduate is not bitter in the least about how things have turned out for him.

“I don’t really look back with any regrets,” he said. “I was maybe a bit naive turning pro because, when I look at the top guys now, in order to make a living you have to be hitting it so far.

“I was pretty short and straight off the tee, which is great for links golf in Scotland and around the UK and would still probably serve me pretty well on the amateur circuit. But, looking at the bigger picture, I don’t think I probably ever had what it takes.”

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