Steven Armstrong left driven by family heartache

Steven Armstrong
Steven Armstrong
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Steven Armstrong is riding an emotional roller-coaster at Longniddry as he bids to bridge a ten-year gap by claiming a second Lothians Championship.

The 41-year-old from Turnhouse has reached the semi-finals despite seeing his family suffer a series of sickening blows over the past few weeks.

His mother, Hazel, passed away in March following an illness and, the day before her funeral, his dad, Ross, collapsed with myeloma, a cancer that affects cells in the spine.

“I’m riding an emotional roller-coaster at the moment,” admitted Armstrong after setting up a last-four clash tomorrow morning with Nathan Free.

“I’m thinking about what has happened to both my mum and dad all the time and in my second-round match on Wednesday night I broke down on the 11th green.

“I was lining up a putt when the tears started. Scott McCandless (his opponent) asked if I was okay and I said, ‘just give me a couple of minutes’.”

Fit as a fiddle before his illness struck, Ross is now struggling to walk but he was determined to make it along to Longniddry to see his son at some stage this week. Wet conditions meant his visit last night was confined to the clubhouse but it meant a lot to Steven for him to be there along with his granddad George and brother Gary.

“After all that we’ve gone through as a family over the past few weeks it would be brilliant if I could win this title again and that’s certainly the target now,” he admitted.

Armstrong, who lost in the final when the event was last held at Longniddry in 2008, stayed on course to go one better by beating Silverknowes star Graham Robertson 2&1.

“I only see flashes now and again of how I once played this game, but I’m hitting it good so we’ll just need to wait and see where that takes me,” he said.

Free, a 20-year-old who plays off one at Musselburgh Old, booked his place in the last four with a 4&3 triumph over Benn McLeod – a result that turned the tables from their meeting in the Musselburgh Amateur final last year.

“I’ve loved match-play since I was a junior and also felt quietly confident coming in this week due to the fact I play here a lot,” said Free, who works in the Longniddry pro shop.

The other semi-final is also a cocktail of youth and experience between Duddingston 36-year-old David Miller and Jack McVey, an 18-year-old from Turnhouse.

Miller secured his fourth appearance at this stage by winning at the 19th against Sean Walter after the West Linton player’s pulled drive resulted in a lost ball.

“I’m off home now to pack boxes as I’m moving house tomorrow,” revealed Miller afterwards. “We’ve also got a 12-week-old baby so my wife is going bananas at me for having this on my plate as well this week!”

McVey, the youngest of the four players still standing, was always in the driving seat as he handed out a 5&4 defeat to clubmate Andrew Young.

Like so many of the youngsters at Turnhouse, he’s fed off the enthusiasm of the club’s excellent junior convenor, Iain Holt, who was there last night. “Iain’s has definitely been a big help to me because he’s encouraged me to keep working hard on my game,” added McVey.

Results: Steven Armstrong (Turnhouse) bt Graham Robertson (Silverknowes) 2 and 1; Nathan Free (Musselburgh Old) bt Benn McLeod (Musselburgh) 4 and 3; David Miller (Duddingston) bt Sean Walter (West Linton) at 19th; Jack McVey (Turnhouse) bt Andrew Young (Turnhouse) 5 and 4.