Grant Forrest targets another Open berth

Grant Forrest. Pic: Ian Rutherford
Grant Forrest. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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Grant Forrest is hoping to tee it up in The Open for the second year running at Hoylake next month.

The Craigielaw star played with 1998 winner Mark O’Meara after qualifying for Muirfield last year.

Now the game’s oldest major is back on his radar as he gears up for a hectic few weeks.

“June is really busy,” said the 20-year-old, who has only recently returned home after completing his third year at the University of San Diego.

“I’ve got the St Andrews Links Trophy this weekend, then the Amateur Championship and after that the Palmer Cup.

“I’m also hoping to have the European Team Championship after that, while I’m also going to try and qualify for The Open again. I get into the final stage, so it’s worth another crack.”

That bid will take place on July 1, when Glasgow Gailes stages the Scottish event in the R&A’s revamped final qualifying series.

It’s an exciting spell for Forrest, who has established himself as Scotland’s top-ranked amateur since starting at San Diego.

The 2012 Scottish Amateur champion won three times on the US college circuit in his junior year.

Those triumphs included a hugely impressive performance at Chambers Bay, where the US Open is heading next year.

“I was pleased with how I played in my third year at San Diego and the last of my three wins was definitely the best one,” he reflected.

“It was probably the strongest field I’ve played against over there and I also shot my lowest tournament round – 63 – on the course that is staging the US Open next year.

“My game is still improving. My scoring average has improved and that’s the main thing.

“It’s been an all-round improvement and I’m hitting the ball a bit further. In the past year, though, my putting has definitely got better.

“The year before that’s what let me down and I’ve managed to tighten that up.

“There are no excuses not to be out practising your putting over in San Diego and the greens are also in a condition that allow you to get some productive work in.

“This was my first year living off campus. I was in with four other people and that was a great experience.”

He expects the Palmer Cup – the college equivalent of the Ryder Cup – to be one, too.

Andrew Coltart is captaining Europe in the match at Walton Heath, where Forrest’s team-mates will include Royal Burgess man James Ross.

“The Palmer Cup wasn’t on my radar until around March,” admitted Forrest. “It’s a Ryder Cup-style event, so it’s going to be great. Both teams are strong.

“James Ross and I both went to Stew Mel, though he was a couple of years above me. He was a decent player then, but has come a long way since.

“The fact both of us are going to be playing in an event like this is great for the school.

“Someone from there got in touch with me to ask about the whole American experience as more people there are now looking at that as an option for them.”

A different option was taken by Gabrielle MacDonald, a Craigielaw club-mate of Forrest’s since their junior days.

She’s at St Andrews University and recently added to the East Lothian club’s remarkable title haul by winning the Scottish Women’s Championship.

“I was delighted for Gabrielle,” said Forrest of her title triumph at Prestwick. “She’s another one that has come on a long way. She’s worked hard and it has paid off for her.

“Craigielaw have seen a lot of players taste success after coming through their junior ranks.”