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  • Alistair Tait

Still Waiting for a Home Winner

Have to admit a wee part of me was secretly hoping for Calum Scott to win the Amateur Championship at Nairn Golf Club. It's been a long time since the game's oldest national amateur championship produced a winner from the host club.

About 111 years by my reckoning.

Fair play to Scott for making it to the quarterfinals considering the pressure he was under to perform in front of fellow golf club members. He lost to 2&1 to Welshman James Ashfield in the last eight.

The pressure on Scott was especially high when he might have expected to fly slightly under the radar pre-tournament considering elder brother Sandy was the player everyone had their eyes on. Sandy, the number eight player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking, had to withdraw pre-tournament because of a wrist injury that also stopped him making a return appearance in the Walker Cup at Seminole, and hampered most of his college golf season at Texas Tech University.

So I think John Ball's feat in 1910 when he won his seventh Amateur Championship at home club Royal Liverpool is safe for another year. I say "think" because Amateur Championship records are pretty sketchy, but I'm 95% confident I'm right. (Anyone who knows otherwise then please set me straight.) Assuming I am correct, am I the only one who finds it strange we're still waiting for a home winner in all these years, even with the vagaries of match play?

I've covered 20 Amateur Championship since 1994, when Lee James defeated Gordon Sherry at Nairn, the first time this fantastic links by the Moray Firth hosted The Amateur. I covered every championship from 1999 to 2018 only for that dreaded term "budget cuts" to nix my 2019 trip to Portmarnock, while Covid did for me this year and last. Fingers crossed I'll make a return to the tournament next year.

What’s struck me about all the championships I’ve covered is that I don’t remember a bona fide contender from one of the home clubs. The Amateur Championship visits the best courses in the British Isles, all the Open venues and those that are too small to host the game’s biggest championship – venues like Nairn, Royal Porthcawl, Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Aberdeen, Hillside, Formby and others – great links arguably worthy of the game’s biggest championship but without the infrastructure to stage an Open. Yet in that time I can’t honestly put my finger on a player in the upper echelons of the amateur game from the host club who had a chance to win the famous trophy. Until this year with Sandy Scott.

Amazing to think we have all these great links yet every time they host an Amateur, they don’t seem to produce a genuine contender to win the championship. Not just a home win, but a win in The Amateur. I honestly can’t think of the last Amateur winner who came from one of the courses that stage The Open championship. In fact, I can’t think of the last player from one of the Open venues to win the Open. Hugh Kirkaldy in 1891 maybe?

You’d think these great courses would be centres of excellence for youngsters, breeding grounds of future champions.

Funny old game.

#JustSaying: “If you can bring the ship home with cargo and crew intact through the hurricane of the last day, that’s an achievement. Right?” Mac O’Grady

Photograph courtesy of the R&A

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