08 Jul 18
Duncan Stewart set up a Scottish Open reunion with close friend Russell Knox at Gullane after winning the 36-hole qualifier at Longniddy for the Aberdeen Standard Investments-sponsored event.
On the same day Knox won a play-off in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Ballyliffin, Stewart emulated the feat on the East Lothian coast to come out on top in a tournament offering four spots in the $7 million Rolex Series event.
The 34-year-old, who hails from Grantown-on-Spey but now lives at Kirkliston and is attached to Turnhouse Golf Club, beat Conor O'Neil (Mearns Castle Golf Academy) at the second extra hole after the pair had tied on 132, four-under-par.
Joining the pair in a star-studded field a few miles along the East Lothian coast are former European Tour duo Peter Whiteford and Jamie McLeary after they claimed the other spots on three-under after a gripping contest on a fast-running course.
The successful quartet all had to show great patience to handle that test, with Stewart being delighted that he will now be playing in the same event as Knox.
The pair have been friends since their junior days, went to the same US college and were partners in the 2016 World Cup in Melbourne.
"After hearing Knoxy had won, I said to my caddie, 'I'm going to make sure we are playing a practice round with Knoxy at Gullane on Tuesday'. I'm absolutely delighted," admitted Stewart.
He picked up a cheque for £5,000 while O'Neil claimed a prize for £3,750. That spot alongside the likes of Masters champion Patrick Reed and world No 3 Justin Rose was the main prize on offer, though.
"I’ve never played in anything even close to being as big as the Scottish Open – events on the Challenge Tour is the biggest I’ve played so it’ll be amazing," said the 26-year-old Glaswegian.
"I was ready to put the clubs, to be honest, coming in this event after missing the cut in a PGA EuroPro Tour event in Northumberland last week. I was horrendous, so I was close to pulling out of this weekend.
"I think having no expectations probably helped me. It’s a free hit – you either qualify or you don’t, so I’m pretty happy that it worked out."
Whiteford held a European Tour card for five seasons in a row but is now a trainee PGA professional at Linlithgow.
"It felt like hard work, to be honest, but I'm delighted and it was great to get the buzz back as I've not had all that much adrenaline over the last year," he said.
"It's phenomenal. I didn't expect to play brilliant and didn't hit the ball all that well, to be honest, but my short game was good. I just hung in there."
McLeary, who is attached to Deer Park, made the most of having played a lot at Longniddry while he's been based at Bonnyrigg, though he's about to flit to Cupar.
"I’ve got out of moving house," he said, smiling. "I've just been on the phone to my missus to break the news and she was saying to make sure I make it to the weekend so she can come and watch me."
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