PERTH, Scotland (Aug. 2, 2013) -- On a day that saw two-time Ryder Cup player Tommy Horton visit Blairgowrie, Alexander Culverwell and James White produced matchplay heroics of their own to book places in the Fairstone Scottish Amateur Championship final.
Culverwell, from Dunbar, and Lundin’s White will go head-to-head in tomorrow's 36-hole Lansdowne Course showdown in a bid to join a roll of honour that features the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Stephen Gallacher, Dean Robertson and Steven O’Hara.
If White’s two victories today over Scotland Boys’ cap Ewen Ferguson from Bearsden and Kirkhill’s Craig Ross were perhaps expected, Culverwell’s scalp of defending champion Grant Forrest was one of the biggest stories of the week.
Three birdies in the opening four holes helped Culverwell race to a three-up lead, and his fellow Lothians player from Craigielaw simply couldn’t claw it back.
Forrest, who arrived at Blairgowrie fresh from playing in The Open at Muirfield, reduced arrears to one after eight, but Culverwell knocked it stiff at the par-3 9th to regain momentum he never lost.
The 25-year-old, whose most notable win to date is the 2011 Battle Trophy on the SGU Men’s Order of Merit, saw out a 4&3 victory to set up the biggest match of his life tomorrow.
Englishman Horton, a Ryder Cup player in 1975 and 1977 who was in Perthshire in his role as Honorary Captain of the 2014 Junior Ryder Cup at Blairgowrie, was certainly left impressed.
Culverwell, who also saw off Wigtownshire County’s Kyle McClung 3&2 in the quarters, said: “It’s the furthest I’ve been in the tournament, after my previous best was the last-16.
“It’s definitely my biggest achievement in the game so far. The Battle Trophy was huge for me, but hopefully I can go on to the final and do even better.
“I know James well, we had a year together at the University of Stirling, so it should be a great game.”
Culverwell’s girlfriend, the former Scotland Internationals player, Becka Wilson, has been caddying for him this week and the final year University of Stirling student has credited her assistance.
“She has been a great help and kept me level-headed,” he added. “I’ve been working hard on not getting too negative which I’ve done in the past.”
White, meanwhile, is chasing glory to cap a gruelling week. The 25-year-old has reached the final of the SGU’s flagship event the hard way - his previous best was the last-eight in 2011 - after coming through a host of tricky ties.
White needed 42 holes on Wednesday to come through his matches, before seeing off Walker Cup hopeful Graeme Robertson on Thursday.
The SGU Men’s Squad player held his nerve again yesterday to edge out Ferguson on the 18th and then defeat Ross 2&1.
The 2011 SGU Men’s Order of Merit winner, whose little brother-turned caddy Robbie celebrated his 23rd birthday today, said: “I’ve had tight games all the way through, but it just makes it more satisfying.
“I was really nervous coming down the stretch as Ewen and Craig both put me under a lot of pressure. The Lansdowne played as tough as it has all week, the wind was really swirling.”
Earlier in the day, Forrest defeated Cardross’ Liam Halliday 3&2, while Ross ended the challenge of last year’s Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year, Jack McDonald, by the same margin.
Forrest and Ross both picked up bronze medals for their achievements. Indeed, Ross, the 20-year-old former Boys’ international, went one better than his run to the last-eight at Royal Dornoch last year. “I’m disappointed, but it’s been a good week,” he said. “I missed chances against James.”
For Forrest, he felt nothing went for him against Culverwell. “I don’t think there is much more I could have done, really. I put up a good defence, I gave it a go,” said the 20-year-old, who was bidding to become the first player in 30 years to successfully defend the title.
“Zander putted really well from eight feet in. I think he had seven single putts in the front nine. If I hit a good shot, it never ended up close, as either the wind died, or switched.
“When he hit a good one, it went close for birdie. If he plays like that in the final, he is going to be tough to beat.
“I’ve got a rest day on Saturday and then it’s off to the European Individual and then the Home Internationals. I’m playing well and I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks.”
Culverwell, who got revenge over Forrest after losing to him at the Scottish Amateur at Gullane in 2010, added: “It’s been a really good week. It’s a course I’ve played before and it’s a course I knew coming into this week that would suit my game.
"I had a good game plan this week, to hit as many fairways and greens as possible, and keep the pressure on my opponents. I was three down to Greig Marchbank yesterday and came back, which gave me a lot of confidence.”