PGA Professionals will face stiff competition from a couple of US-based Scots, as well as a group of amateurs, in this weekend’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open qualifier at Longniddry.
Being staged for the fourth year in a row in order to give Scottish players a chance to play in their home Open, four spots will be up for grabs in the 36-hole contest, with the lucky quartet joining a star-studded field at Gullane next week.
Among those bidding to secure one of those prized berths in the £5.5 million Rolex Series event is Calum Hill, who made the cut in last month’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills after qualifying for the season’s second major.
“I’m feeling very good about the Scottish Open qualifier,” said Hill, who played his junior golf at Aberdour and Muckhart before taking his game to a new level during a stint at Western New Mexico University.
“I feel very fortunate to have received an invitation for this event from Aberdeen Standard Investments and I’m ready to capitalise on this opportunity.”
Hill won a sectional qualifier to secure his US Open spot at Shinnecock Hills, where he was delighted to make the cut on his major debut before finishing 61st behind back-to-back winner Brooks Koepka.
“I have never played Longniddry before, but I’ve heard it’s a great track that is quite scoreable,” he added. “To qualify for the Scottish Open would be one of the best achievements in my golfing career so far. In fact, I’d definitely say it would be my proudest moment.”
Another player to make the journey across the Atlantic in a bid to secure a spot alongside the likes of Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood and Rickie Fowler on July 12-15 is James Ross, who is based in Texas.
The field also includes Greig Hutcheon and Chris Currie, two members of Great Britain and Ireland’s PGA Cup-winning team at Foxhills in Surrey last September, as well as Tartan Tour No 1 Paul O’Hara and Northern Open champion Gareth Wright.
No-one has a better record in this event than Wright, the West Linton PGA Pro having been among the qualifiers at North Berwick, Moray and Kilmarnock (Barassie) in the event’s three previous stagings.
“It would be great if I could manage to get through again,” admitted the Edinburgh-based Welshman. “I think it will be a slightly different test on this occasion with the weather conditions we have had the last month or so.
“But it will make it interesting as it will be much more how links golf is meant to be played. I’m also looking forward to some more golf on the east coast and I hope it can be as good to me as it has in the past.”
Also in the line-up are former European Tour card holders Craig Lee, Jamie McLeary, Duncan Stewart, Peter Whiteford, Jack Doherty, Steven O’Hara and Lloyd Saltman while the amateurs bidding to secure a dream week at Gullane include Sam Locke (Stonehaven), Calum Fyfe (Cawder), Darren Howie (Peebles), Will Porter (Carnoustie) and James Wilson (Balmore).
Martin Gilbert, Co-Chief Executive of Aberdeen Standard Investments, said: “The Scottish Open qualifier has proven to be a great success with promising Scottish golfers and we look forward to building on that at Longniddry. Aberdeen Standard Investments is pleased to offer four up-and-coming Scottish golfers the chance to play in their home Open. Together with this qualifying, the main event and the Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane, it’s going to be a fantastic month of golf in East Lothian.”
Paul Bush, Director of Events at VisitScotland, which supports the event, added: “The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open Qualifier is a great opportunity for Scottish-based players to play their way into one of the strongest events on the European Tour circuit and I wish all the competitors the very best of luck.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the event take place on yet another one of our outstanding golf courses at Longniddry on Scotland’s Golf Coast, outlining why Scotland is known around the world as the Home of Golf.”
Shona Malcolm, the PGA’s regional manager for Scotland, said: “The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open Qualifier has become a must-play event for Scottish professional golfers and the top amateurs in the country since it was first introduced four years ago.
“The competition for the top four spots has increased year on year, and there’s no doubt the links at Longniddry will provide a great challenge and prepare the qualifiers well for the tournament at Gullane next week.”