Pro status joins Walker Cup on Byrne's cluttered 'to do' list

James Byrne may be planning for a future in the professional ranks but the Banchory youngster will focus on his ambitions in the unpaid game today as he launches another assault on the amateur championship title at Hillside and Hesketh in Southport.

The 22-year-old, making his first appearance of the season on UK soil having finished his four-year stint at college in Arizona, was beaten 5 and 4 in last year's final at Muirfield by Korea's Jin Jeong but that disappointment has fuelled his determination to succeed.

Byrne has said that this will be his last season as an amateur and, while a trip to the European Tour's qualifying school has been pencilled into the schedule, there is another major date in the diary that the Scotland cap has highlighted: the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in September.

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"My mind is set on the pro ranks," said Byrne, who picked up five-and-a-half points from six during his last visit to Hillside in the 2009 Home Internationals. "But the big incentive is the Walker Cup and getting into the GB&I team would be the ideal way to finish my last year as an amateur.

"Getting to the final last year was a great experience, even though I lost, and I'd love to do it again. I've got a good matchplay record at Hillside and going back to a venue where you have a decent pedigree gives you a lift."

Byrne is one of 288 players from 35 nations competing in an event that offers a place in July's Open and next year's Masters to the eventual winner.

Scottish champion Michael Stewart and current SGU order of merit leader Paul Shields also compete alongside English duo Andy Sullivan and Tom Lewis, the winners of the Scottish Open Strokeplay Championship and the St Andrews Links Trophy respectively over the past fortnight.

Players will contest a 36-hole strokeplay qualifying phase today and tomorrow with the leading 64 progressing to the matchplay stages on Wednesday.

l Greig Hutcheon's fine form continued with back-to-back wins on the Tartan Tour in the Kemnay Pro-Am.

The Banchory pro, who won the Skycaddie 36-hole Challenge last Thursday, fired a bogey-free six-under 65 to ease to a two-shot victory over Paul McKechnie of Braid Hills.

Hutcheon, who made the cut in both the BMW PGA championship and the Wales Open on the European Tour recently, added 875 to his bank balance.

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Stephen Gray (Hayston) and Graham Fox (East Kilbride) shared third spot with 68s.