Wallace Booth braves cold to card fine 66

HIS little sister Carly may be Scottish golf’s brightest star at the moment after winning twice in six weeks on the Ladies European Tour – it was also her 20th birthday yesterday – but this time it was Wallace Booth’s turn to step into the spotlight.

Late in the day at Macdonald Spey Valley, the 26-year-old from Comrie came in with a five-under-par 66 to claim a share of third spot, two shots beind joint-leaders Daniel Brooks and Sam Walker, after the first round of the Scottish Hydro Challenge.

“Carly is doing fantastic and she is definitely spurring me on to practise and do better,” said Booth with a huge smile. “But, at the same time, I’ve got to remember that I was out for 18 months through injury and it’s still early days, so the last thing I want to do is put too much pressure on myself.”

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Booth, a member of Scotland’s Eisenhower Trophy-winning team in 2008 along with Callum Macaulay and Gavin Dear, had just joined the professional ranks when he started to suffer shoulder trouble. He had an MRI scan and saw two specialists but was told to play on.

However, after missing out at the European Tour Qualifying School in 2010, it “became worse than ever” so he sought a second opinion from Lennard Funk, a specialist who treats some of the Manchester United and Manchester City players.

That resulted in Booth having a shoulder operation last April but, just as he was getting back to full fitness, he then suffered nerve damage in his hand, which he reckons was caused by changing his grip during his rehab.

At long last, he’s starting to see light at the end of the tunnel and yesterday’s effort, which contained six birdies, was a timely reminder that Booth had as much talent as his sister when he was coming through the amateur ranks.

He missed a shortish putt at the tenth – his last – to drop his only shot of the day but said: “I played pretty steady, hitting a lot of fairways and only missing a couple of greens.”

On a day when it was certainly chilly, it was ironic that a man from Chile was one of the few not complaining about the conditions. In fact, Mark Tullo spoke with such warmth about playing in the cold, wind and wet that he should probably be signed up by VisitScotland to promote the home of golf.

As is often the case, his opinion has been influenced by some encouraging past performances. Most notably last year’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, where the man from Santiago closed with a 66 to finish in joint third behind Luke Donald to pick up a cheque for £100,000. A rare bright spot, he lost his card at the end of last season, though only by one place in the Race to Dubai. It’s meant a return to the Challenge Tour, where he won twice two years ago, pipping Matteo Manassero to lift the Rolex Trophy in Switzerland then beating a field that included Rory McIlroy to add the Egyptian Open.

Helped by a good performance here, Tullo is hoping to be back on the main stage again before too long and he’s not bothered about what Mother Nature has in store for the rest of the week. “You never know [what the weather is going to be like] here in Scotland,” he said after he signed for a 67. “Two years ago in this event, we had hail, rain and sunshine on one hole. .But that’s what you prepare for in Scotland and I actually laugh about it.”

Raymond Russell, who matched Tullo’s opening effort to sit in a share of seventh, only had to walk 200 yards yesterday to discover how quick the wind can change in his home country. “Walking up the seventh through the trees, you could take your jumper off but then when I got round the corner I was putting my jacket on,” said the 39-year-old former Cannes Open champion. “The temperature changed considerably.”

Brooks, a 25-year-old from Basildon, was forced to withdraw after the first round here 12 months ago due to a wrist injury but is off to a better start this time around. “I had a wrist injury when I came here last year and, after hitting it in the heather at the 13th, I couldn’t get it out – that was the end for me unfortunately,” he recalled.

Walker, another Englishman, won this event’s inaugural staging when it was held at Murcar Links in 2006. His seven-under score was arguably the day’s best round as it was played in conditions that were pretty dreich. “I played unbelievably well,” admitted the 34-year-old from Birmingham. “The course is playing tricky but there are still chances. Some parts of it are also similar to Murcar Links, especially some of the blind shots you’ve got to hit on the back nine.”