ARCHERFIELD ace Zack Saltman thought he was having his leg pulled when a friend told him he would be making his bid to qualify for The Open in the company of Colin Montgomerie.
The 24-year-old is in the same group as the eight-time European No. 1 at Gullane in tomorrow’s local final qualifying for Muirfield.
“It was a real surprise,” the youngest of the three Saltman brothers – Elliot and Lloyd are also amongst the hopefuls at Dunbar and Musselburgh respectively – told the Edinburgh Evening News. “I was waiting for the email to come through last Tuesday and knew that both Elliot and Lloyd had already found out where they were playing. Then I got a phone call from one of my friends, who’s an assistant pro at Dunbar, asking me if I knew who I was playing with.
“To be honest, I was more interested in where I was playing than who with, but then he told me I’d come out of the draw in the same group as Monty I replied, ‘no way’, but he told me that he wasn’t kidding and, of course, he wasn’t.”
The pair will have rising English amateur star Max Orrin as the third member of their group when they set out for the first of two rounds at 8.40am.
“On the one hand, I’m thinking I’d have been better going under the radar in an event like this, especially with such a big prize on offer,” added Saltman.
“But, on the other, it’s a great draw because one thing for certain is that there will be a lot of people there wanting to see how Monty gets on.”
If Saltman makes it to Muirfield, he’ll find himself teeing it up in the world’s oldest major 12 months after caddying in the event. “I caddied for Elliot when both him and Lloyd qualified at Turnberry in 2009 then again for Elliot at Lytham last year,” said the PGA EuroPro Tour player.
“For me to get the chance to play in The Open myself would be nice, but there’s a long way to go, especially with only three places up for grabs at Gullane. I walked round the course recently and it was like an old-style links, which should make it interesting.”
Saltman, who finished joint-second in the regional qualifier at Northumberland, missed the cut at the weekend in the low-scoring Buildbase Open, a EuroPro Tour event at Frilford Heath. But he said: “My game has been a lot more consistent. Hopefully I can get that first pro win sometime and keep progressing.”
Another ex-Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, is also in the field at Gullane, as is Edinburgh star Andrew Oldcorn, winner of last week’s regional qualifier at Bruntsfield Links.
It would be an incredible achievement if Oldcorn could seal an Open return at the age of 53, especially considering top-level competitive opportunities have been few and far between for the Kings Acre man this year. “But I’ve actually played more than has been prevalent media-wise,” he said. “I’ve also been playing on some mini-Tours down south, including one in the north west that has a seniors’ section.”
Play starts at all four venues – North Berwick is the other course being used – and admission is free.