Muirfield 68 helps Paterson secure Scotland spot for Euro title defence

GREG Paterson has pipped fellow Fifer James White for the last spot in the Scotland side to defend the European Amateur Team Championship in Sweden next month.

While James Byrne, Ross Kellett, Philip McLean, Kris Nicol and Michael Stewart all looked to be automatic selections, the sixth and last berth had been in the melting pot.

In the end, captain Scott Knowles and his team of selectors opted for Paterson, the tall St Andrews New player who shot opening rounds of 63, 66 and 66 at Royal St David's before a closing 76 saw him finish third in this year's Welsh Open Stroke-Play Championship.

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"Greg also shot a 68 at Muirfield last week (to qualify for the Amateur Championship] and I believe the course in Sweden is going to be a tough test like that," said Knowles.

Kellett, who handed himself a timely boost when winning the Tennant Cup last weekend, and former Scottish Boys' champion Stewart are the two survivors from the side that lifted the title last year, beating England in the final at Conwy.

Three members of that team – Gavin Dear, Wallace Booth and Paul O'Hara – are now in the paid ranks while Blairgowrie greenkeeper Glenn Campbell, who didn't play at Muirfield, has lost his place.

Scotland last made a successful defence of the European title in 1977 with a side that included the likes of Charlie Green and Ian Hutcheon, but will head for Osterakers Golf Club on 6-10 July with high hopes of repeating the feat.

Byrne, who is now into the top 20 in the world amateur rankings after sharing second spot in the qualifying and then reaching the final at Muirfield, made his full Scotland debut alongside Richie Ramsay in the European bronze-medal winning team at Western Gailes three years ago.

Kellett's confidence will have be boosted by his four-shot weekend win – a first SGU Order of Merit success – while Stewart has returned from college in the United States in positive fashion with a seventh place finish in the St Andrews Links Trophy before reaching the third round of the Amateur Championship.

Both McLean, joint runner-up in the Links Trophy, and Nicol, who achieved second- place finishes in both the Lytham Trophy and Irish Stroke Play Championship earlier this season, will be making their debut in the European Team Championship. "As we showed last year, we are as good as anyone when it comes to match-play and all that matters is that we make the top flight, so we will be looking for the players at No 5 and No 6 in the team putting in some good scores," added Knowles.

At exactly the same time, Scotland will also be bidding to win the European Boys' Team Championship in Turkey with a side that will be led by Craigielaw's Grant Forrest, who lifted the match-play title at West Kilbride in April.

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"It's been ten years since Scotland last won the event with Martin Laird in the side back then but we've had some good performances over the last few years and we'll take inspiration from how the men's team have performed on the big stage," said national junior coach Spencer Henderson.

Scotland team (for European Team Championship at Osterakers Golf Club, Sweden on 6-10 July): J Byrne (Banchory), R Kellett (Colville Park), P McLean (Peterhead), K Nicol (Fraserburgh), G Paterson (The New Club, St Andrews), M Stewart (Troon Welbeck). Reserve: J White (Lundin).

Scotland Boys' team (for European Boys' Team Championship at Klassis Golf Club, Turkey on 6-10 July): G Forrest (Craigielaw), S Gibson (Southerness), J McDonald (Kilmarnock, Barassie), S Fairburn (Galashiels), P McPhee ( King James VI), L Johnston (Dumfries & County).