Junior golfers will fly flag for Scotland in top tournament

A TEAM of teenage Edinburgh golfers will come out of cold storage when they represent their country in a home nations tournament in Spain early in the new year.

Liberton Golf Club's junior team overcame 11 other clubs in a match at Spey Valley Golf Course in Aviemore to win the right to fly the Saltire at La Torre, near the city of Murcia, in the middle of January.

After defeating fellow Lothians club Turnhouse at Mortonhall to qualify for the Scottish National finals, the Liberton lads claimed victory in spectacular fashion in the Highlands, defeating North Berwick's Tantallon GC by one shot with a total of 405 on the Speyside course and beating last year's victors Craigielaw, from Longniddry, into third place.

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The Lothians 1-2-3 confirms the success of the sport at junior level in the area, and the prospect of a Capital team representing Scotland is one that excites young Liberton golfer Scott Finlay. Finlay, 16, of Balderstone Gardens, says the group is eager to prove their abilities at international level against England, Wales and Ireland.

"It'll be a good feeling once we get over there and get playing," he said. "We haven't won the Scottish before, but I've played for Lothians, so I've had experience of (high level] competition. You just focus more and get on with it in these types of tournaments. Obviously, if other players hit a good shot, you want to hit a better one."

Scott lists as "really close best mates" his fellow Liberton juniors Anthony Blaney, Ross Munro, Daniel Eardley, Thomas Brock and Fraser Christie - all of whom will travel with friends and family members to take part in a series of matches incorporating various formats from January 12-17.

The team has won the Lothians Summer League in each of the last two years and is currently striving to retain its Winter League title after more success in the Junior Inter-Club competition. In spite of their rich vein of form, it was as underdogs that the Liberton juniors entered the Scottish finals, rendering their victory all the more impressive.

Susan Finlay, mother of Scott and an avid supporter of the team who attends most matches, is glowing of the boys' attitude and application.

She said: "I'm absolutely delighted and so proud of them all. They're up at the club in the summer and practising all the time. They tried so hard to win the competition at Aviemore and it was such a surprise, I have to say. They were complete underdogs and came from nowhere. There's a large support going out to Spain. Each boy has at least one parent going, along with the senior captain, Barry Inch, and other players from the club.

"I'd love them to win, but I'm just so proud they've even got this far. It'll be a great experience for them, and I have every faith in them."

If there's a more instrumental figure behind the Liberton boys' success aside from their support alongside the fairways, the honour falls to Robert Ross, junior convenor at the club.

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"He's one of the guys who's very commited to junior golf," said John Masterton, secretary of Liberton GC. "He spends a lot of his free time looking after the juniors and the club golf side of things.

"The kids are all super lads and are a credit to their parents. But they wouldn't have achieved this without Robert, who's willing to put the time in to arrange the matches and take the boys to them, to cajole them and make sure they're focused on what they want to achieve. He's certainly been the catalyst to their success."

Ross has been a member of the club since 1989 and is currently serving his second stint as junior convenor. According to Masterton, it's a role that's key to the future of all local golf clubs.

"We're one of the less fashionable city clubs, so it's good publicity for us," he said. "Junior golf is probably the way most clubs will succeed in future - if you have a good junior section, it helps the club as a whole. Hopefully the success of the juniors will encourage more kids in Liberton to take up the sport."