Golf: McManus caps debut with a win in front of Open champ

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EDINBURGH-BORN Aaron McManus made a winning debut in front of the tournament host in the Paul Lawrie Foundation Scottish Boys’ Championship then revealed he had ‘talent-spotter’ Paul Gibson to thank for paving his way into the event.

The 14-year-old, who beat Lawrie’s youngest son Michael to progress to the second round at Murcar Links, has lived in Darlington for most of his life but has recently joined Tantallon after catching Gibson’s eye in last year’s English Under-14s event.

“Paul watched me playing at Porters Park in London and has since got me into the Lothians set up,” said McManus after keeping his nerve in front of European Tour star Lawrie to record a 4 and 2 win.

“Having Michael’s dad walk round with us definitely put me under a bit of pressure,” he added. “But, at the same time, it was good to play in front of an Open champion.”

Liberton’s Anthony Blaney and Lewis Bain of Turnhouse also came through their first-round encounters, albeit in slightly different fashion.

Blaney, one of the leading contenders, produced a sizzling display as he crushed Portlethen’s Ben Murray 6 and 4. The 18-year-old covered the 14 holes in five-under, picking up birdies at the fourth, fifth, eighth, 12th and 14th.

“It’s nice to get off to a good start,” admitted Blaney, who has reached the fifth round two years in a row. “My game is in good shape and my confidence got a nice boost when I finished joint-first in the opening SGU Junior Tour event of the season at Gullane.”

Bain, last year’s Lothians Boys’ champion, also looked to be heading for a comfortable win as he boarded the 14th tee with a two-hole cushion in his match against Balmore’s Robbie Kemsley. But, after losing the 14th, 15th and 17th, he was heading for the exit door until Kemsley three-putted the last, missing from four feet to clinch the win. To his relief – not to mention Turnhouse stalwarts Iain Holt and Allan Shaw – Bain made the most of that let-off as he won at the second extra hole to go through.

All in all, it was a pretty good second day for the Lothians, with other first-round winners including Callum Cochrane (Dalmahoy), Scott Simpson (Murrayfield), Fraser Christie (Craigmillar Park), Owen Brady (Baberton) and Stuart Blair (Royal Musselburgh).

The one disappointment was the early exit suffered by Tantallon’s Calum Hill, who claimed a bronze medal as he reached the semi-finals at Dunbar 12 months ago.

In one of the early second-round ties, Liberton’s Scott Finlay was unable to follow up his opening-day victory over Lawrie’s other son, Craig.

He went down 3 and 1 to Peebles player Craig Howie, while Edinburgh exile Robert Reynolds also lost late in the day at the hands of Buckpool’s Jake Scott.