Capital star Zander Culverwell’s Scottish Open dream

Zander Culverwell is keen to sort out his driving ahead of the opening round. Pic: Ian Georgeson

Zander Culverwell is keen to sort out his driving ahead of the opening round. Pic: Ian Georgeson

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Zander Culverwell watched buddy Jack McDonald enjoy a dream day in the company of Ernie Els at the Scottish Open two years ago.

Now the Edinburgh man is hoping he’ll be the amateur ace sharing the same fairways as one of the game’s big guns in the Aberdeen Asset Management-backed event.

A star-studded field at Royal Aberdeen, where the £3million tournament gets underway tomorrow, is headed by defending champion and current Open champion Phil Mickelson.

Joining him on the Balgownie course in the Granite City are a stellar cast that also includes Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood.

Simply getting the chance to rub shoulders with such players is an incredible opportunity for Culverwell, the reigning Scottish Amateur champion, and one he intends savouring from start to finish.

Making the weekend in such company will be a tough task, but Culverwell is using Stirling University team-mate McDonald, pictured below, as his inspiration this week.

“It was great for Jack when he made the cut in this event at Castle Stuart two years ago and I saw the buzz he got off that,” admitted Culverwell, whose home club is Dunbar but also plays at Bruntsfield Links.

“It’s an event where, if you can make the cut, you can get an amazing draw, as Jack did when he played with Ernie Els.”

Culverwell secured the spot allocated to the Scottish Golf Union after failing to make the team competing in this week’s European Team Championship in Finland.

“It was a win-win situation for me,” he confessed. “It’s always great to represent Scotland but equally great to be playing in the Scottish Open. I only found out the Thursday before the recent Amateur Championship that I had a chance of playing here and it wasn’t confirmed until after the European teams had been picked.

“I’m looking forward to this week as it will be an amazing experience to play in the Scottish Open, especially with the field here.

“Outside of the majors, this must be the strongest European Tour field that’s been assembled this season and it’s great to be part of that.”

Among those cheering him on will be his dad Alex, who owns one of Scotland’s largest retail property companies.

“It will be great for my dad to be there,” admitted Culverwell of his No.1 fan. “He’s always a busy man but I think he’s managed to rearrange a few meetings this week!

“I’ve played here once before. That was in a Uni match in November or December and hopefully it will be a lot different this week.

“I came up for a game last week with Nick McAndrew, a member here, and that gave me a chance to see what the course is like. Scott Walker is on my bag this week. I’ve known him for a long time – he’s one of my best mates – and he’s now an experienced Tour caddie.”

Wayward driving at Gailes Links last week cost Culverwell his chance of progressing to next week’s Open at Hoylake. But the plus side of that disappointment for the former Lothians champion was that his final nine holes were watched by coach Ian Young.

“That was good because Youngey immediately said that he’d seen a few things and we’ve been working on them,” he said. “My short game and putting feel quite good at the moment and hopefully I can get my driving sorted out in time.”

Looming on the horizon beyond this week’s tasty treat is a Scottish title defence at Downfield at the end of the month.

“I’ve not played there before but one of my mates works there and, from what I’ve heard, it’s a great golf course,” said the title-holder.

“It’s probably similar to Lansdowne (where he beat Fifer James White in last year’s final) and I’m looking forward to going there as the defending champion. I also don’t want to hand the trophy back!”

Culverwell is among a Lothians contingent in Aberdeen that also includes Ryder Cup contender Stephen Gallacher and Jamie McLeary.

They’re both in next week’s Open and will be looking for solid performances here before heading south.

Whether Richie Ramsay, who lives in the Lothians, tees up on his home course tomorrow remains to be seen as his chances of playing are “50-50” due to a shoulder injury.