Conner Syme reaches quarters for third straight year (Scottish golf photo)
ABERDEEN, Scotland (July 28, 2016) -- Peebles player Craig Howie hopes the north-east again proves his lucky charm after sealing his spot in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Men’s Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen.
At the neighbouring Murcar Links four years ago, Howie lifted the Scottish Boys Championship and his sights are set on more silverware in the Granite City following a last-16 comeback.
On a gloriously sunny day when the wind was at its freshest all week, Howie breezed home in his tie with Turnhouse’s Euan McIntosh, winning three of the last four holes for a two-hole success.
The 21-year-old has now set up a last-eight tie with his foursomes partner from Scotland’s European Amateur Team-winning side, namely Connor Syme.
“The north-east has been good to me,” admitted Howie, pictured top. “I’ve had a great year with a lot of solid performances. I think I’ve just kicked on a little more, with the belief and confidence I can compete. It’s going to be a little strange playing Connor, especially as we were unbeaten in our foursomes matches.”
Connor Syme into last eight
Drumoig’s Syme continued his impressive progress with a 3&2 victory over Irvine’s Stuart Easton and was pleased to achieve a mini-goal for the week over the Balgownie Links.
The GB&I cap and Australian Amateur winner said: “Three years in a row I’ve reached the last-16 so the monkey is now off my back. I was ahead early in both my matches today and didn’t give much away, only losing two holes. The wind was the strongest it’s been all week, especially on the back nine. You had to put it in play off the tee to have a chance.”
With Syme and Howie facing off tomorrow morning, another seeded player, the title holder Robert MacIntyre, continued his admirable defence with an impressive victory over the in-form Graeme Robertson.
Glenbervie’s Robertson is chasing a sixth straight Home Internationals place, but MacIntyre executed some wonderful chip shots to build a commanding early lead and emerge victorious 4&3. The Glencruitten left-hander said: “Graeme made a couple of mistakes and then I got a break at the fifth when my drive bounced kindly out of the rough 10 yards from the green.
“Graeme came back, but I hung on. Coming here, I thought ‘I’ve got to try and defend it’. It’s the same as Muirfield last year, it’s about hitting fairways and greens and this afternoon is as good as I’ve played in a while.”
Next up for MacIntyre is Elderslie’s Alasdair McDougall, with the pair supposed to be travelling up to Aberdeen together for practice. However, McDougall found himself in A&E in Paisley on Friday night due to an abscess and almost pulled out of the event.
Never has the phrase ‘beware of the injured golfer’ been truer as McDougall – who was second in stroke play qualifying at The Amateur a few weeks ago – teed up without a practice round and has now battled his way to the last eight, seeing off Andrew Gibson from Blairgowrie 4&3 in the last-16. “I was going to pull out, but decided to give it a go,” said McDougall. “I’m glad I did.”
In the final quarter of the draw, Royal Burgess’ Malcolm Pennycott has shone all week to set up a clash with George Duncan from Windyhill. Pennycott was too strong for William Walker while, Duncan ended the hopes of local lad Ben Murray (Portlethen) by two holes.
Meanwhile, at the top of the draw, there were bizarre circumstances come the conclusion of the Mark Halliday and Andrew Burgess tie. Nairn’s Burgess emerged with a one-hole win, but there was dialogue for a number of minutes on the 18th green as Halliday, who defeated 2001 champion Barry Hume in the last-32, thought he was going to extra holes.
US college student Burgess, 21, said: “Someone miscounted somewhere in the middle, so there was a bit of confusion at the end. But I went through every hole with Mark and he was OK with it. I was happy to come through with a par on the last.”
Halliday, 43, a Royal Aberdeen member for around 15 years, added: “It’s the first time I’ve shaken hands with someone when I thought I was going to extra holes.”
Burgess now meets Forres’ Jeff Wright after he won at the 19th to end the hopes of another Royal Aberdeen player, teenager Fintan McKenna. Having earlier come back from two down with six to play to beat fellow club player Steven Buchan, McKenna lost a ball off the tee at the first extra hole.
McKenna has been working for the last year in the cafe at the nearby Paul Lawrie Golf Centre, the job allowing him to hone his skills, and he could still be pleased with his run on home soil.
Quarter-final draw (from 8am Friday): Wright v Burgess; Syme v Howie; McDougall v MacIntyre; Pennycott v Duncan.