Richard Docherty happy to relinquish dual titles in bid for Amateur triumph

RICHARD Docherty, a self-confessed “middle of the pack man” this season, will line up in today’s final of the Scottish Amateur Championship instead of defending his club crown at nine-hole Bearsden.

It means that title will be added to the Dunbartonshire Match-Play Championship which the 22-year-old has already relinquished as it clashed with the SGU’s flagship event this week.

But adequate compensation will be forthcoming if Docherty, who is lying a lowly 45th on the Scottish Order of Merit, can deliver one more surprise in an event littered with shocks by beating Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest in the 36-hole title showdown.

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“I’d gladly swap those two titles for this one,” declared Docherty after surviving a late wobble to beat nine-time Forres champion Bryan Fotheringham, conqueror of top seed Graeme Robertson earlier in the day, on the last green in their semi-final joust.

Two down early on against the more experienced Fotheringham, Docherty benefitted from a “succession of errors” by his opponent around the turn to find himself three up with seven to play, only to open the door for the Inverness player by carelessly chipping into a bunker at the par-5 12th.

Sensing an opportunity, Fotheringham, a quarter-finalist in both this event and the British Amateur in 2005, then birdied the short 13th to reduce the deficit to one, then lost the next two before winning the 16th and 17th with pars to take the match down the last.

But, if the 34-year-old was hoping his opponent had started to choke, he was in for a rude awakening as Docherty, after finding the middle of the fairway with a sweetly-struck 3-wood, then produced an approach to match the glorious overhead conditions, hitting a wedge from 142 yards to eight feet, to seal his victory.

It came the day after Charlie Green, the Dunbartonshire legend and three-time Scottish champion, celebrated his 80th birthday and has given Docherty the chance to become the first player from that county to claim this title since Windyhill’s Andrew McArthur a decade ago.

“My results haven’t been very good this year, finishing in the middle of the pack a lot,” said Docherty, who spent four years playing second division American college golf at Lindenwood in St Louis.

“I have struggled with my putting this year and also had a back injury that forced me to pull out of the East of Scotland Open at the end of June after just 15 holes, but I came here feeling good about my game and my fitness.”

Docherty, a redhead like Steven O’Hara, who won the event when it was last here in 2000, is also a member at Windyhill but cut his golfing teeth at Bearsden, where a successful junior programme is starting to bear fruit.

His clumate, Ewen Ferguson, finished second – he was also the leading under-16 player – in last week’s Scottish Boys Stroke-Play Championship at Cardross, where Cameron Kirkwood, another Bearsden product, claimed tenth spot.

“Things are on the up at Bearsden,” noted Docherty, who is resigned to having little or no support in the final due to a combination of his parents being away on holiday at the moment and the club championship taking place at his home club.

“It will be frustrating for my dad, William, as he helped me a lot with my spell in America,” he said.

On the date of his late father’s birthday, Forrest, a Scottish squad member, booked his place in the final with a brace of impressive victories, crushing Glenbervie’s Fraser Moore by 6 and 5 in the morning then ending the brave run of Duff House Royal 17-year-old Lewis Mutch after lunch. In winning that one 4 and 3, it meant the 19-year-old former Scottish Boys’ champion had not gone beyond the 16th in four successive matches on the Dornoch Firth.

“It’s a bit surreal just now,” said Forrest as he savoured reaching the final. “Moving from boys’ golf into the men’s game always seemed like a level up but I’ve now managed to do it.

“It would have been my day’s birthday today so that’s nice, too. I had actually forgotten until my mum reminded me this morning and it was in the back of my mind all day. To do the best I can is all he really wanted.”

Admitting he has benefitted from having Calum Stewart, a fellow Scottish Boys’ international who lives in Brora but is also a member here, caddying for him, Forrest has plotted his way round with precision this week, revealing he has only used his driver a couple of times in each round.