06 Jul 19
Calum Hill equalled the Longniddry course record with a six-under-par 62 to lead at the halfway stage in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open qualifier on the East Lothian coast.
The Challenge Tour player bounced back from dropping his only shot of the day at the first to card seven birdies as he matched the score set by Torwoodlee amateur Mike Thomson in the Longniddry Open in 2008.
Hill, who finished two shots outside of the qualifying zone in his first crack at a Scottish Open appearance at the same venue 12 months ago, leads by one from Paul O’Hara, Kris Nicol, Chris Doak and Neil Fenwick in the battle for four spots in next week’s $7 million Rolex Series event at The Renaissance Club.
Tom Higson, who is attached to Gleneagles Hotel, is a shot further back along with in-form PGA EuroPro Tour player Ryan Campbell heading into the second and final round, with O’Hara’s big brother, Steven, also in the mix in a group on 65.
Hill, who won the Northern Ireland Open on the Challenge Tour last season, made his score by covering the last 10 holes in five-under, rounding off a good day’s work by rolling in a 16-foot birdie putt at the last.
“I played nice golf from nine onwards,” said the 24-year-old, who is attached to Gleneagles Hotel. “The key today is not playing yourself out of it and hopefully I can have another solid day tomorrow.”
It was a good day for the O’Hara brothers as Paul signed for six birdies and Steven fired five in their bid to earn a dream appearance together in one of the biggest events on the European Tour.
Both have played in the Scottish Open in the past but not at the same time - Paul having qualified for the event’s visit to Dundonald Links in 2017 while Steven’s last appearance was at Castle Stuart in 2012.
“I kept it quite simple out there today,” said 32-year-old Paul, who is attached to North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd. “For the first five or six holes, it was quite tricky in a crosswind and I was pleased to four holes in a row from the third, holing a 25-footer at the sixth.
“I was a wee bit disappointed about not making it through The Open qualifier at Fairmont St Andrews on Tuesday, so it would be nice to get through this again.”
Steven, who is 38, held a European Tour card before joining his sibling on the PGA in Scotland circuit over the past few years.
“I played really well, giving myself plenty of chances and managed to take a couple,” said Steven, having “set the tone” for his round by holing a tricky four-footer for a birdie at that first.
“The greens are brilliant - the best we played on all year. I am dying to play in the Scottish Open again as I have missed it.”
Higson, a 31-year-old who hails from Coldingham in the Eastern Borders, recorded a couple of wins on the Gateway Tour in the US before getting a job in the merchandise shop at Gleneagles.
He was round in 60 in a practice round at Longniddry on Friday with Hill, who turned to him after that and said: “You should be playing for a living.”
Nicol, who qualified at Castle Stuart in 2013, is in with a chance of repeating that success after signing for seven birdies as he took full advantage of the wind dropping for the later starters.
“I played pretty solid,” said the 34-year-old, who is attached to Dunes Golf Centre in Fraserburgh. “I have been playing okay, having finished second in the Scottish Young Pros Championship at West Lothian recently.”
Doak, a former European Tour player, was also pleased with his start as he bids to be playing next week at his home club, having been attached to The Renaissance Club for two-and-a-half years.
“I must have played the course a hundred times and it would be good to play in front of the members as I have become friendly with some of them,” said the 41-year-old after carding five birdies in a bogey-free effort.
Playing in the same group, Campbell was also blemish-free as he maintained the form that has earned him three top-10s on the PGA EuroPro Tour this season.
“I have been playing well and have given myself a chance tomorrow, which is what you want,” said the Falkirk man.
A day after tying for second in the Motocaddy Masters, a PGA EuroPro Tour event at Linden Hall in Northumberland, Fenwick opened with eight straight pars before moving up a gear.
“I was really solid and it could have been even better as I missed four chances from inside 15 feet after I got on a wee run,” said the Dunbar-attached former professional footballer.
Others in the mix include Scott Henry, Michael Stewart, Jason McCreadie and Greg Dalziel after they all opened with 65s while a big group on 66 includes Duncan Stewart, last year’s winner, and Sam Locke, who has qualified for The Open for the second year in a row.
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