Gailes Links Welcomes Home Internationals
Continuing a feast of golf for Ayrshire this summer, the Home Internationals – Great Britain and Ireland’s premier amateur team event – will be staged in the region next week when Gailes Links welcomes the best male players from all four home unions.
After the Carrick Neill Scottish Stroke Play Championship, The Amateur Championship and The Senior Open Championship provided drama and excitement in recent months, it is the turn of another notable competition to be played out on the west coast.
Gailes Links, owned and managed by Glasgow Golf Club, welcomes the Home Internationals from Wednesday to Friday (15 – 17 August), an event that is contested Ryder Cup-style match in a round robin format by the 11-strong amateur sides of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales.
Gailes lies on a beautiful stretch of links land, close to the Royal Troon, Prestwick and Western Gailes courses. With its undulating fairways, fine greens and subtle qualities, it’s a superb, traditional test.
The Home Internationals have proved a breeding ground for the next generation of stars over the years, with Scotland's former players including Richie Ramsay, Lloyd Saltman and George Murray – all now established as professionals. The likes of Rory McIlroy, Tom Lewis and Rhys Davies have also been on show in recent years, before also moving into the paid ranks.
England are seeking a fourth straight success in the tournament and have newly-crowned and youngest-ever English Amateur champion Harry Ellis among their number. Ireland also boast The Amateur Championship winner Alan Dunbar and Wales count Walker Cup hero Rhys Pugh among their number – but Scotland will hope to claim a first victory since their triumph in Wales in 2006.
On his debut, local hope Jack McDonald is seeking to thrill the galleries. Qualifying for the side thanks to being the leading Scot on the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), the Kilmarnock (Barassie) 19-year-old has enjoyed a great summer. McDonald reached the semi-finals of The Amateur at Royal Troon before going on to play all four rounds of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on The European Tour after his invite to Castle Stuart.
Grant Forrest, the new Scottish Amateur champion, has immediately been rewarded for his success at Royal Dornoch after being handed a place in the Scots team chasing glory on home soil.
The 19-year-old from Craigielaw, who defeated Richard Docherty of Bearsden 9&7 in Saturday’s final, has been handed a selector’s pick. The East Lothian player, whose emotional win in the SGU’s flagship event came just over three weeks after the death of his father, Graeme, said: “My aim has always been to make one of the Men’s teams. It’s the icing on the cake.”
Forrest, whose two national boys’ title wins came in Ayrshire at Largs and West Kilbride, is joined in the team by the top four on the SGU Men’s Order of Merit – Ross Bell, Matthew Clark, Scott Borrowman and Paul Ferrier.
Downfield’s Bell is the current leader of the Order of Merit after a hugely consistent season which saw him go close to winning the Scottish Stroke Play title. Clark of Kilmalcom has also impressed, winning the Newlands and finishing second at the Tennant Cup.
Former Scottish Youths and national Under-16s champion Borrowman (Dollar) has posted four top-10 finishes, while Baberton’s Ferrier also reached the semi-finals of The Amateur. With only McDonald fulfilling the automatic selection criteria from the WAGR, the selectors have picked six other players, with Brian Soutar (Leven GS), Graeme Robertson (Glenbervie), Paul Shields (Kirkhill), James White (Lundin) and Fraser McKenna (Balmore) joining Forrest. James Ross (Royal Burgess) has been named as first reserve.
Soutar, the third highest-ranked Scot in the WAGR, won the South African Amateur Championship earlier in the year to underline his international match play credentials. Shields, like White a member of the current Great Britain & Ireland squad, posted top-30 finishes in the Lytham Trophy and Irish Stroke Play, while Robertson was third in the St Andrews Links Trophy and played a key role in Europe’s Palmer Cup win.
McKenna is a two-time winner on the domestic circuit in 2012, claiming the Champion of Champions and The Battle Trophy. Only Robertson, Shields, Soutar and White have been capped at Home Internationals level before, but the rookies are sure to rise to the challenge.
The matches get underway on Wednesday morning at 7.30am with Scotland facing Ireland on the opening day. Entry to the event is free for spectators so get along to Gailes Links to watch the action unfold.
The Scotland team is sponsored by Aberdeen Asset Management and TaylorMade-adidas Golf.