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Nairn rose to occasion as most thrilling Amateur Championship created global buzz

Colin Sinclair, chief executive officer of Nairn Golf Club.
Colin Sinclair, chief executive officer of Nairn Golf Club.

Colin Sinclair, the chief executive officer at Nairn Golf Club, still beams at the extraordinary Amateur Championship which played out on his course this summer.

Not only did the final produce the most amazing comeback victory in the tournament’s history, but the course record was smashed and a rising star from its own club was a whisker away from reaching the semi-finals.

Laird Shepherd recovered from a nightmare start where he was eight down to Monty Scowsill after 17 holes and still four down with four remaining of the 36-hole final before going on to lift the silverware at the second extra hole after late drama in June.  

That was the icing on the cake for a tournament where 17-year-old Calum Scott created an incredible buzz near and far by sweeping into the quarter-finals where he was edged out by Welsh opponent James Ashfield.

There was no shortage of drama over the week, with Kilmacolm’s Matthew Clarke shooting a course-record 62 with a stirring performance to surge into the matchplay stages. 

Team effort set up course for drama

Sinclair admits fortune shone on Nairn for the remarkable competition, but he paid credit to those within the club who set the scene for such drama.

He said: “It was a fantastic success for all concerned.

“To have one of the most, if not the most, exciting final in Amateur Championship history was amazing. No one could have predicted that.

Comeback star Laird Shepherd with the Amateur Championship trophy.

“For Monty (Scowsill) to be eight up after 17 holes and still be seven up after the first 18, I think even Laird Shepherd was thinking ‘let’s just try and make it an honourable defeat’.

“It then progressed to him being four down with four to go before going all the way to the 38th hole.

“You could plan this, and we delivered what we wanted to do, but there were aspects we were not in control of and it all fell into place, so it needed a bit of luck, which you need in tournaments.

“It was very windy at the start which helped produced some great golf. We also had a course record broken too, so the Championship here had everything. It was all positive.”

Sinclair explained the teamwork required to get the course into such a fantastic shape for the golfers, not just in tournament time.

Champion Laird Shepherd with staff from Nairn Golf Club.

He added: “The quality of the golf course will determine the quality of the golf that’s played. That’s the course, the lay-out, the changes.

“The condition of the course was wonderful and the R&A, who run the tournament, were delighted with Richie (Ewan), our course manager and his team for what they produced. They thought it was of the highest quality and of an Open Championship-standard.

“That’s huge credit to Richie and the team and also the club funding the new Toro machinery. That was reinvesting back into the product at a time when there is not a lot of reinvestments, to be truthful.

“A lot of clubs are finding it a tough time, but that shows what Nairn is trying to achieve, investing in the golf course, which is key.

“They produce a fantastic course day in, day out, every week of the year. If you came here today, the course is in the same great condition as it was for the Amateur Championship and it’s key that our members get that standard day in, day out.”

R&A’s YouTube show was a winner

Organisers, the R&A, also beamed the final live across the globe for the first time from the Championship and Sinclair was grateful for the coverage, especially as word spread about the stunning final comeback.

Laird Shepherd is congratulated by Monty Scowsill at the end of an epic final.

He said: “To have the final 36 holes covered live through YouTube by the R&A for the first time and they did a phenomenal job with that.

“The feedback came from people around the globe as people watched Nairn and the Highlands – the ratings were huge as the final went on. Word spread it was getting closer and closer and going to the two extra holes.”

Nairn, as a town, was superb host

Although the Championship was meant to be a dual-club event, Covid restrictions denied Nairn Dunbar their share of the spotlight.

However, Sinclair believes the town as a whole demonstrated what it is capable of as a host location of a major event.

He added: “Ourselves and Nairn Dunbar were set to host it, but because of Covid it became a one-venue competition. It shows that Nairn, as a town, can host major events.

“The Highlands can put on a heck of a show with regards to golf tournaments. The only disappointment is we were sorry to our friends at Nairn Dunbar that they never got the chance, but they understood (the reasons) as we did.

“If you want to have an event of the highest quality, we have shown we can do it here in Nairn.”

Teenager Scott was shining light

Sinclair was also thrilled to see Scott take the limelight in his stride and explained that the social media interest soared with his progression from day one.

He added: “To have Calum, for local interest, doing ever so well was another big factor. He came really close and it was fine margins in his quarter-final, which could have gone either way.

Calum Scott was in top form on his home club of Nairn.

“The atmosphere that was creating within the club, town and through social media was great. We have a number of overseas members and it was getting lit up with everyone getting so excited.”

Scotland will reap rewards next year

With The Open Championship taking place at St Andrews next July, Sinclair is sure that the north of Scotland will hit the jackpot with travellers arriving after two years of Covid ruling out such movement.

He said: “We will have The Open at St Andrews, which is a huge draw for golfers who won’t only be watching golf at the iconic Old Course, but they’ll plan trips and play all the marquee courses, of which we are one.

Colin Sinclair, the chief executive officer at Nairn Golf Club.

“Scotland needs to be busy next year. It’s two years of not really having overseas travel and we do rely on a lot of overseas visitors to assist with our revenue, which is no different to a number of clubs. We’re looking forward to next year as people come here to enjoy the experience.

“The Amateur Championship allowed us to elevate the product that we’ve got here.”

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