Gareth Wright and Calum Hill win Scots Open berths

Calum Hill, who is just 19, held his nerve on the last day to qualify. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Calum Hill, who is just 19, held his nerve on the last day to qualify. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

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Local amateur ace Calum Hill will be teeing up with Rory McIlroy & Co in the £3.25 million Scottish Open at Gullane this week.

And he’ll be joined in the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored event starting on Thursday by Edinburgh-based pro Gareth Wright.

Gareth Wright. Picture: Getty

Gareth Wright. Picture: Getty

They both came through the inaugural qualifier at North Berwick along with Craig Sutherland, Greig Hutcheon and Graham Fox.

Kent-based Sutherland, who turns 37 on the day of the first round, beat West Linton’s Wright in a play-off to claim top spot and a £7500 winner’s cheque.

They finished locked together on 12-under 130 after Sutherland closed with a 64 and Wright signed for a 66.

Tartan Tour duo Fox (Clydeway Golf) and Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre) claimed the next two spots on 11-under after 65 and 66 respectively in the second round.

But the real story of the event was Hill as the Tantallon teenager claimed the fifth and final berth on his home course.

“It is brilliant,” admitted the 19-year-old as he savoured making the short journey from his home in North Berwick to play in one of the European Tour’s biggest events.

“I’ve given myself something really exciting to look forward to now and I can’t wait to get along the road to Gullane tomorrow morning.”

Hill, who is coached by Alan Murdoch at Kings Acre, is home for the summer from the University of Louisiana Monroe.

“I was in the States when I heard this event was going to be held at North Berwick so I let the Scottish Golf Union know that I’d be keen to get one of the amateur spots,” he said.

“I was pretty excited when I got the shout as I felt confident that I could do really well around here.”

It was the second time in three years that North Berwick had proved a happy hunting ground for Wright in a qualifier. In 2013, he passed a similar test on the same course to get into The Open at Muirfield, where he made the cut.

The Welshman was helped on this occasion by a hole-in-one at the fourth in his second round – the third of his pro career. “That made me feel more comfortable, especially as I’d also birdied the previous hole,” said Wright, who was philosophical about losing the play-off as Sutherland holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th to clinch victory.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get into a play-off as I was playing the last trying to make a 4 so it was a bonus to birdie it,” he said.

“The biggest goal was to get into the Scottish Open and I’m delighted to have achieved that. Now the aim is to make the cut.”

Sutherland was born and bred in the Orkneys but now lives in Kent.

“I’ve lost my accent, but I promise you I’m Scottish,” he said, smiling, after negotiating 36 holes without a single bogey. “I’ve never done that in my life,” he declared.

Duncan Stewart, who is attached to Turnhouse, missed a ten-foot birdie at the last that would have forced a play-off with Hill.

He had a feeling that might prove costly and, unfortunately for him, that was the case.

Royal Burgess star James Ross eagled the last hole in his round of 68 but, finishing on four-under, he never really got into the mix.

“I’m sure a few guys in the later groups would like to buy that off me, but I’d like to buy a putts from them on the back nine,” said Ross.

Instead of Gullane, he’s now off to Slovakia, having secured a start in this week’s Challenge Tour there.

“It’s another opportunity to play on that circuit, which is good,” he added.

Capital-based Bulgarian Michael Kanev produced one of the early charges of the day as he stormed to the turn in 31, five-under.

The birdies dried up for the 25-year-old coming home and he eventually signed for a 68 to finish on three-under.

“I holed a couple of long putts going out and was hoping to make a few more birdies on the back nine but it was playing tougher into the wind,” said Kanev.

He’s lived in Edinburgh for more than five years and recently joined the pro staff at Bruntsfield Links.

“It’s been great to get a chance like this and I was really happy with my performance today,” he added. “I would love to give it a go again in the future and hopefully get into the tournament one day.”

Bonnyrigg-based Jamie McLeary (Dalmahoy) finished a shot further behind after a second-round 69.

But for Wright and, in particular, Hill it was two days to cherish and he’ll deserve to have the whole of East Lothian rooting for him later this week.