Battle Royal looming for Lothian stars

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LOTHIANS players have 
landed some tasty ties in the first round of the Scottish Amateur Championship, which takes place at Royal Dornoch in a fortnight’s time.

The Glen’s Neil Henderson, for instance, has been handed a chance to make a name for himself in the SGU’s flagship event when he takes on James White, last year’s Scottish No. 1.

Both players made it to the quarter-finals at Western Gailes last year, when Henderson lost to eventual winner David Law.

It’s a tough test for the East Lothian player, who has now completed his stint at the Old Dominion University in Virginia. But he’ll be heading for the Highlands feeling he has a chance of landing an early shock in the event.

Baberton’s Paul Ferrier is one of the eight seeded 
players after he reached the semi-finals in last month’s Amateur 
Championship at Troon.

The 23-year-old flew under the radar in that event in Ayrshire but will be in the spotlight from the off this time.

He will also need to have his ‘A’ game with him right away as his first-round opponent, James Bunch, is a potential 
banana skin.

The Fifer succeeded Stephen Gallacher as the Scottish Boys’ Stroke-Play champion in 1993 before disappearing from the national scene for a spell.

He has been playing regularly again this season, though, and on his day can certainly prove a tough man to beat in an event like this.

The Lothians contingent heading up the A9 also includes James Ross, a semi-finalist last year, and the newly-crowned Sutherland Chalice champion.

Ross, who also saw his title challenge ended 12 months ago by Law, opens this time around against Buckpool’s Jack Scott.

And, if he can back up that first SGU Order of Merit title win in Dumfries with another strong showing in this event, he could be in the reckoning for a Scotland call-up in next month’s Home Internationals.

That will also be Ferrier’s goal as the 2007 Scottish Boys’ champion bids to complete a notable double.

Dunbar’s Danny Kay, of course, reached the final at Western Gailes last year and he heads north in an attempt to go one better. He starts against Jeff Wright from Forres and will be hoping his good memories from the event will spark a timely return to form.

Unfortunately, there are two all-Lothians ties in the first round, so the Capital contingent will be reduced almost from the off.

Silverknowes star Graham Robertson, last year’s Edward Trophy winner, will take on Steven Smith, the Dalmahoy player who reached the final of last year’s Lothians Championship.

And ther will be an East Lothian derby in the shape of Craigielaw’s Ross Noon, the 2011 Lothians Order of Merit winner, against Michael 
Bacigalupo from Longniddry.

Noon’s clubmate, Grant Forrest, faces an old head in Neil Hampton, who will be even more difficult for the former Scottish Boys’ champion to beat over his home course.

Dunbar’s Zander Culverwell, who is enjoying a consistent
run of form, launches his 
title bid against Fraserburgh’s 
Andrew Hepburn.

That should be a more straightforward test than Dalmahoy’s Iain Wilson will face against Brian Soutar, the Fifer who won the South African Amateur Championship earlier this year.

Like Ferrier, Barassie’s Jack McDonald was a semi-finalist in the Amateur Championship in Ayrshire.

Since then, the teenager has become the first home amateur in a decade to make the cut in the Scottish Open at Castle 
Stuart.

And, if McDonald can reproduce that sort of form on his return to the Highlands, he could be the man to beat in the battle to join the likes of Ronnie Shade, Charlie Green, Colin Montgomerie and Stephen Gallacher on the roll of honour.