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TEE TO GREEN: New young stars at the Scottish Amateur, and other midsummer miscellany

Connor Graham, just 14, had a brilliant Scottish Amateur.
Connor Graham, just 14, had a brilliant Scottish Amateur.

 

We’re inbetween events at the Olympics, the majors are over and Bryson hasn’t done anything psycho this week.

It must be time for a little T2G miscellany.

In good hands

A terrific Scottish Amateur Championship at Murcar Links gladdened the heart. More so as one felt more than a little deflated after Crail in 2019.

Then, only the brilliant officials and membership at that great club, some players and a few crotchety old journalists really seemed to care about the old championship many of us love dearly.

Happily a new regime at Scottish Golf, although not exactly swimming in cash right now, put their backs in to the championship this year.

The event was superbly well-run, and the new app for logging scores worked well. A more accurate and detailed website might help stressed journalists on deadline, but you can’t have everything.

Best of all, we also had some potential future stars leaping forward.

I’d kept half an eye on Connor Graham from Blairgowrie nearly winning everything in the Under-15 age range in Scotland this year, but he launched himself on the national stage at Murcar with a run all the way to the semis.

Even then, the 14-year-old was only bested by eventual champion Angus Carrick birdieing the two final holes. If Connor was a little under the radar outside the PH10 postcodes, he most certainly isn’t now.

Similarly it was great to see Niall Shiels Donegan, San Francisco-based and sounding, but irrevocably Scottish if his dad Lawrence, the author and golf writer, has anything to do with it.

Niall, not yet 16, made the last 16. That rounded off an excellent summer spent playing competitively back in the homeland of his parents. Haste ye back, young man.

Angus Carrick, son of the former champion and GB&I stalwart David, was a worthy winner, and he seems to be a career amateur, so there’s even more to like about it. Connor Wilson, the beaten finalist from Castle Park in Edinburgh, looks like he’s going to be a player as well.

An overdue reckoning

The Saudi Invitational has attracted some top players.

The PGA Tour have announced that their members will not be given releases – and as a result could be sanctioned – if they want to play in the Saudi Invitational event next February.

There’s been a steady stream of players stuffing wads of riyal into their pockets when the event was European Tour-sanctioned. That arrangement, mercifully, has ended.

The Saudis are actively attempting to up the ante of sportswashing their brutal reputation by spitting off and advocating their own Super Golf League.

This is what has infuriated both the PGA and European Tours. It would have been great if the public executions of 16-year-olds and suppression of women’s rights had been enough. But at least we’ve got there in the end.

I’m sure the sanction from the tour is not terribly penal. Dustin Johnson, a twice winner of the event, has regrettably suggested he will go anyway.

But it is important that the PGA Tour is making a stand on this at last. Even if it’s only because of their own self-preservation.

Three big weeks for women’s golf

Dumbarnie Golf Links in Fife hosts the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open in August.

The women’s Olympic competition is this week and if Rio 2016 is anything to go by, has a bit more importance than the men’s. That being said, last week’s men’s competition, won by Xander Schauffele, has clearly increased the validity and prestige.

There follows, almost immediately, the Trust Golf Scottish Women’s Open – thankfully, they’ve finally stopped calling it the “Ladies” – which will showcase Scotland’s much-acclaimed new links at Dumbarnie.

And the week after that we’re at Carnoustie for the AIG Women’s Open. It’s three weeks straight where the women’s game is much more interesting than the men’s.

Sadly we’ll have no fans at Dumbarnie but anyone who loves golf should be at Carnoustie the following week.

And it was great news to hear that the Angus links is hosting both Boys’ and Girls’ Championship for the R&A next year, at the same time and site for the first time ever.

Scottish Golf have moved away from having their junior championships at the same time and venue because of the lack of courses than can cope. But with the help of neighbouring Panmure, Carnoustie is perfect to host both the Boys’ and Girls’.

It shows those whispers after the 2019 Open that the R&A were thinking of not coming back to Carnoustie was just the snotty snobs talking. It’s still a staple for our best championships, and rightly so.

The Dunhill has to be in doubt again

The Dunhill was cancelled in 2020 and must be in doubt this year as well.

No news continues to be good news about the staging of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship this year. But I can’t be the only one who has their doubts.

The European Tour, it seems, wants to keep a strict bio-bubble for the rest of this season. This week’s Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews will have limited spectators and an “inner bubble” for players, caddies and officials like the Scottish at Renaissance did.

Players coming from all over the world every week is the reason why this is still being applied. On the PGA Tour they’re not even testing now, but the vast majority of their members are US resident. There’s been word in recent days that they’re about to bring back a mask mandate for officials and indoor areas.

The Dunhill has people coming in from all over the world. The amateur players increase the numbers and therefore the risk, over three venues. I can’t see an inner bubble which can be applied safely, to be honest.

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