Culverwell wakes up as Scottish champ

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CAPITAL ace Zander Culverwell feared he’d been dreaming until he opened his eyes and glanced over to the desk in his bedroom.

“Sitting there was the [Scottish Amateur Championship] trophy so I knew it hadn’t all been a dream,” he told the 
Evening News.

“I’d taken it up to my room with me on Saturday night and it was nice to wake up and see it sitting there.”

He claimed the coveted prize by holding his nerve to beat Fifer James White by 2 and 1 in the 36-hole final at Blairgowrie.

It sparked a party back in the family home at Barnton on Saturday night, though Culverwell himself couldn’t wait to get to his bed at the end of an exhausting week.

“When I got home I had a few beers and a curry with my family and some friends – but I just wanted to sleep,” added the new champion.

It was the biggest win by far in the 25-year-old’s career, which was ignited by him winning the Lothians Championship at Dalmahoy in 2006.

Culverwell, whose home club is Dunbar but he also plays at Bruntsfield Links, then made his mark on the SGU Order of Merit circuit by winning the Battle Trophy at Crail in 2011.

But he was still pinching himself yesterday morning after joining the likes of Ronnie Shade, Charlie Green, Colin Montgomerie, Stephen Gallacher and Dean Robertson on the roll of honour for the SGU’s flagship event.

“It’s still not fully sunk in yet – but it is definitely getting there,” admitted the Stirling University student.

“There are some great names on the trophy and the fact I know a few of them makes it even better.

“This is undoubtedly by far my biggest achievement in the game so far. I’ve enjoyed bits and pieces of success in the past but nothing like this.

“I’ve always believed I was capable of winning an event like this and I went up to Blairgowrie expecting to do well.

“I was very focused on my game plan, which was to simply hit fairways and greens as the Lansdowne is that kind of course. I was also very calm all week, having worked hard to make sure there was no negative energy holding me back.”

After winning the Edinburgh & East of Scotland Alliance Championship in 2007, Culverwell took up a golf scholarship at the University of Minnesota.

But, after two years there, he cut that short and reckons his decision to enrol at Stirling University instead has been well and truly vindicated.

“I wanted to take ownership of my golf,” he said. “By coming home I got to choose what was happening in my game and I think you’re always going to get better results when that’s the case. I’ve had great help from Deano [Dean Robertson] and the rest of the people on the golf team at Stirling.

“I still work with Ian Young, my long-time coach, and it was great that he was able to be up at Blairgowrie on Saturday.

“Add in Alex Woods at Golf Fit and I’ve got some great people around me.”

Culverwell’s forthcoming schedule at the moment consists of SGU Order of Merit events such as the Level Gold Medal and North, North-East and South-East District Opens.

But, if recent tradition is maintained, he’ll be receiving an invitation to the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles later this month.

He’ll also find out today if is his exploits in Perthshire have been enough to secure a berth in the Scotland team to defend the Home Internationals before then.

“I’ve got Northern Open qualifying at Craigielaw on Monday so that’s my only focus at the moment,” he said.

“I believe the Johnnie Walker is a possibility and that would obviously be a great experience, but I’ll just need to wait and see.

“Anything that comes out of me being the Scottish champion is just going to be a bonus.”

After Grant Forrest’s win last year, it’s the first time since the great Ronnie Shade recorded his five-in-a-row in the mid-1960s that the Lothians has produced back-to-back winners in the SGU’s flagship event.

Culverwell is also the first Dunbar player to claim the crown after John Huggan (1983) and Danny Kay (2011) both fell at the final hurdle.