Lothians’ Eric triumphs - but calls are growing for a change to the schedule
Bruntsfield Links’ Eric McIntosh has set his sights on winning the Scottish Boys’ Order of Merit this year after claiming his biggest win to date.
McIntosh defeated Kirkhill’s Lewis Irvine 2&1 to win the Scottish Boys’ Amateur Championship at Murcar Links, becoming the first player from the Lothians to win the event since Grant Forrest did so in 2010.
The 17-year-old was delighted to join the likes of Andrew Coltart, Scott Henry and David Law with his win, but was also quick to look ahead and target the major Boys’ honour at the end of the year.
“It’s a long week, coming through eight ties to win, and a highlight was beating Jamie Stewart, the third seed, in the fifth round,” said McIntosh. “This is definitely the biggest success of my junior career.
“I guess I’ve had quite a low key career as an amateur, but my coach David Patrick has really brought my golf along in the last two years so that has definitely helped. I’d love to go on now and win the Scottish Boys Order of Merit, that would be amazing.”
McIntosh’s win comes in a year when Scottish Golf’s flagship boys’ tournament failed to attract a full field for the first time, raising some questions about the timing of the event, which is historically held as the curtain-raiser for the Scottish Golf season.
After only 234 of the 256 spots could be filled for the event, the governing body revealed that it was disappointed at not attracting a full field and refused to rule out a schedule change for the Scottish Boys’ Amateur Championship in the future.
A total of 22 players were handed byes into the second round of the six-day, eight-round event due to the spots that were left unfilled. That was despite the handicap limit being raised by one shot to 8.4 for this year’s event.
Scottish Golf events manager Daniel Sommerville explained that the body would be willing to embrace change – but reiterated the importance of keeping with tradition.
He said: “We are disappointed not to attract a full field this year, but we had a really strong field of Scotland’s best young junior male golfers taking part which produced some top class golf throughout the week.
“We are working hard to ensure our portfolio of national championships meets the needs of golfers of all ages and abilities and all of our events are subject to ongoing review.
“We appreciate the need to maintain tradition but also embrace change to ensure our future events are in line with what our participants want and that they get a great experience by taking part.
“We’re very grateful to Murcar Links and all of our host venues in 2016 for providing their courses for use in our championships, allowing us to provide fantastic golf courses on which the players can test their skills and showcase their best talent.”
The scheduling of the event at the start of the season has raised a discussion as to whether it should be moved to ensure the best possible conditions for the country’s most talented youngsters.
Those in favour of the move suggest finding another date that won’t see golfers wrapped up in woolly hats and gloves can only add to the quality of what is one of Scotland’s flagship national amateur competitions. They say playing the event at the start of the season only acts to undermine the tournament and is unfair on the players.
As Sommerville said, Scottish Golf is now open to a discussion on the subject, but with the limits placed on events at this age group by the school holidays calendar, making a change is not as easy as simply moving the date.
An outcome to the discussion is not expected to arrive quickly. With this year’s event now over, Scottish Golf will start looking forward to 2017.