26 Jun 19
The chance to be part of one of the strongest fields of the season on the European Tour has ensured a hot contest in next weekend's Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open qualifier at Longniddry.
Being staged for the fifth 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 line up at The Renaissance Club in a fortnight's time.
Among those bidding to secure one of those prized berths in the £5.5 million Rolex Series event is Connor Syme, who shot a 62 in the second round at Gullane last year en route to finishing as the second top Scot in joint-32nd.
Also in the field as Longniddry stages the event for the second year in a row is Calum Hill, who won the Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour last season.
Returning to the East Lothian venue along with him are the four qualifiers 12 months ago - Duncan Stewart, Conor O'Neil, Peter Whiteford and Jamie McLeary.
On a fast-running course on that occasion, Stewart and O'Neil led the way with a four-under-par 132 total, a shot ahead of Whiteford and McLeary, with Stewart claiming a £5,000 top prize in a play-off.
O'Neil heads a contingent from the PGA EuroPro Tour that also includes Ryan Campbell, runner-up in last week's event on the third-tier circuit at Cumberwell Park, and Sam Locke, the Silver Medallist in last year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The field also includes Craig Lee and Paul O'Hara, both of whom produced strong performances in the recent Titleist & Footjoy PGA Professional Championship at Hunstanton in Norfolk.
Alastair Forsyth, who won that event by 11 shots as he backed up a second Northern Open title triumph at Newmachar earlier in the year, is not in the Longniddry line up due to another commitment.
However, the bulk of the field is made up of PGA players, with Scottish PGA champion Greig Hutcheon also flying the Tartan Tour flag along with the likes of Chris Currie, Graham Fox, Gavin Hay, Greg McBain and Steven O'Hara.
As has been the case since the event was launched at North Berwick in 2015, the field is sprinkled with a number of amateurs, including Liberton's Kieran Cantley, winner of an Open Championship regional qualifier at Goswick earlier this week.
Forres player Jeff Wright, who passed that test as well at Panmure, is also among the players offered this chance by Scottish Golf, the others being Peebles pair Stephen Roger and Darren Howie, Ayr Belleisle's Jim Johnston and Rory Franssen (Inverness).
Martin Gilbert, Chairman 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 as Longniddry stages the event for the second year running.
"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 The Renaissance Club, it’s going to be a stretch of golf events in East Lothian."
With the Solheim Cup being staged at Gleneagles in September, it is another massive year for golf events in Scotland and Paul Bush, Director of Events at VisitScotland, which supports the event, is excited about the Longniddry qualifier teeing things off.
He said: “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 The Renaissance Club in a fortnight's time."
Scott Henry beats overnight leader Calum Hill in a play-off at sun-soaked Longniddry
07 Jul 19
Record-equalling 62 from Hill at Longniddry
06 Jul 19
The Tartan Tour No 1 gunning for The Renaissance Club
05 Jul 19