A trio of Nairn golfers going for glory on their home course at next week’s Amateur Championship will use local knowledge to their advantage.
That’s the view of Nairn Golf Club chief executive Colin Sinclair as 144 players from mainly across Britain and Ireland arrive this weekend ahead of the six-day R&A competition, which starts on Monday.
Will there be another home winner?
The Amateur Championship is one of the biggest and most prestigious amateur events in the world.
There was a home winner last time as Joe Long defeated compatriot Joe Harvey in an exciting 36-hole final at Royal Birkdale.
This 126th edition is being contested solely at the Seabank Road venue, with Nairn Dunbar no longer co-hosting due to the reduced field because of Covid.
Brothers Sandy and Calum Scott along with Fraser Fotheringham are the Nairn entrants and there’s real excitement in the air as they seek to turn the heat on the visitors from Monday.
Scott siblings and Fotheringham will go for glory
Sandy Scott is the seventh best amateur in the world right now, looking to be in the hunt after a wrist injury denied him Walker Cup action last month.
His younger brother Calum is blazing a trail, following in Sandy’s golfing route by attending the Texas Tech University and causing a stir across the water. He tees off the entire event on Monday at 7am.
Fotheringham, 31, is a former professional and competes for a third time in this competition after coming in from the reserve list.
Nairn Golf Club chief Sinclair is hopeful that the Scotts and Fotheringham can be in the running as the week progresses.
He said: “We have three members playing and we’re delighted and looking forward to seeing how they do.
“It would be the dream ticket if we could get these guys into the final. Local knowledge will mean a lot. It’s certainly worth a couple of shots.
‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ chance for Calum Scott
“Looking at the breezy conditions, our fingers are crossed that they perform well.
“I certainly know from Calum’s point of view, he sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to play in the Amateur Championship on his home course and to hit the opening tee shot.”
Sinclair is clearly proud that his team have managed to have the course looking in peak condition after the harsh winter and spring was a challenge.
He explained: “We’re all excited for the week ahead. The course is looking fantastic.
“Like everywhere else in Scotland, we had a very cold spring and over the last few weeks the heat has certainly assisted.
“Our superintendent (course manager) Richie Ewan and his team have done a fantastic job and got the course looking absolutely stunning.
“The weather forecast is breezy for the week, so it will be testing for the players.
“We’re looking forward to all the golfers arriving here for their practice rounds on Sunday.
“Combined with the conditions, it’s incredible that Richie has managed to produce a golf course when we have had the coldest May in the last 60 years and the wettest in the last 40 years after a bit of a cold winter.
Great work from our course team as we prepare the finishing touches for the 2021 Amateur Championship next week ⛳ pic.twitter.com/5tgPU6f4do
— The Nairn Golf Club (@NairnGolfClub) June 8, 2021
“Put all that in the mix and it is one great product. We are wanting people to enjoy it, not just next week. Come and play at Nairn after the tournament. We want people to come and play here and enjoy it, which I am sure it will.”
‘Life-changing’ opportunity for the Amateur winner
Despite less continental competitors, Sinclair said all golfers will be chasing major prizes by next Saturday night.
He explained: “There are, of course, less international travellers, understandably, but the quality is still there.
“The prizes on offer are fantastic. To be the amateur champion and follow in the footsteps of (Jose Maria) Olazabal and others is great.
“To have the chance to get that invitation to The Masters, the US Open, The Open Championship and a European Tour event is a big prize – life-changing.”
Tom Mackenzie redesign worked a treat at Nairn
And Sinclair explained why major work all around the course makes Nairn the ideal test for next week’s golfers.
He said: “The course was remodelled three or four years ago. The club had a strong vision to bring in (leading golf course architect) Tom Mackenzie, who had worked on Turnberry, and he remodelled all 18 holes, some slightly more than others.
We’re proud to be hosting the best Amateurs in the game next week as The Amateur Championship comes to Nairn.
If you’re looking for the latest news and which players are in the field, make sure you head to the @RandA website.
— The Nairn Golf Club (@NairnGolfClub) June 7, 2021
“New greens, new tees and new bunkering. That was two-fold. Firstly, to make it more challenging for the elite players, such as we’ll have next week.
“But it was also to make more fun for the average golfer, the higher handicapper, by having new forward tees in. Having had all that work put in place, the restored Nairn Golf Club is there for everyone to see.”
Members in for a treat – but R&A ensure no one will miss out
It will be a members-only crowd for the Championship, while the R&A feeds will have live coverage of the final.
Sinclair added: “We are also permitted to have 400 members per day. Our members are very supportive and we look forward to seeing them down at the course watching so many great players.
“Although 400 is not the number that it would have been normally, it is still great for the players because they will feed off the people watching.”
Putting the Highlands in the spotlight
And Sinclair hopes having the Championship back at Nairn for the first time since Lee James beat Gordon Sherry in 1994, will turn the spotlight on the benefits of golfing in the north of Scotland.
He stressed: “The Highlands has got so much to offer, with ourselves, Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart, Fortrose, Boat of Garten and Grantown. We have so many top courses, links, inland and heathland.
“There is no better place, especially when so many people are not travelling overseas. You come to the Highlands and you will get a plethora of golf, and great golf as well, mixed in with some of the very best Highland hospitality.”