Sweden trip bodes well for Scottish amateurs

Scotland's amateur golfers return to the happy hunting ground of Sweden this week for the defence of the European Team championship title at the Osterakers club.

The Scots, aiming for back-to-back crowns for the first time since 1977, have won the event on the past two occasions the championship has been held on Swedish soil, in 2001 and 1985, and head into today's opening qualifying round in purposeful mood.

James Byrne, runner-up in June's Amateur championship, and Michael Stewart and Ross Kellett, the two surviving members of last year's winning side at Conwy, headline a six-man team that also includes championship debutants, Kris Nicol, Philip McLean and Greg Paterson.

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"There's a really good vibe in the team and I think we're every bit as strong as last year," said Stewart ahead of Scotland's bid for a seventh European title. "As we showed last year, Scotland teams are good at stepping up to the big occasion."

The Scots will face stern competition from 19 other nations including nine-time champions and last year's runners-up England, whose team features Walker Cup duo Chris Paisley and Tommy Fleetwood as well as Open-bound Laurie Canter.

Ireland, winners in 2007 and 2008, have a side led by national strokeplay champion Alan Dunbar while Amateur championship quarter-finalist Rhys Enoch is in the Welsh squad.

A strong challenge is also expected from France, whose impressive line-up includes European champion Victor Dubuisson and Scottish Open Strokeplay champion Romain Wattel, who played all four rounds of last weekend's French Open.

Meanwhile, Nairn Dunbar's Scottish champion Kelsey MacDonald leads Scotland's women into action at the European Ladies' Team championship at La Manga in Spain. The country's under-18 golfers also compete this week in the European Boys' and Girls' events in Turkey and Denmark.

New North Division county team champions Angus look odds on to provide the winner of this week's North of Scotland women's championship, restricted to players from Aberdeenshire, Angus, Northern Counties and Perth & Kinross, at Forfar Golf Club.

The four top qualifiers for the match-play stages after a quite windy day at a short but tricky course were all from Angus clubs - Andrea Bowie (Monifieth), Ann Ramsay (Kirriemuir), Ailsa Summers (Carnoustie Ladies) and Jackie Brown (Monifieth) - and of the 16 who go forward, 11 are members of Angus clubs.

Andrea Bowie and Ann Ramsay both matched the par of 72 with the No 1 seed tag going to Bowie by virtue of having the better inward half, 35 to 38.