THIS week’s Johnnie Walker Championship will produce Capital gains for two Edinburgh golfers as they play in a European Tour event for the first time.
Zander Culverwell earned his spot alongside the pros at Gleneagles after winning the Scottish Amateur Championship just under a fortnight ago.
And he’ll have Neil Fenwick for company after the former Dunfermline Athletic defender also secured a berth in the £1.4 million event through the Tartan Tour.
“Obviously a lot of things have changed for me since winning the Scottish Amateur and this is an amazing opportunity,” admitted Culverwell before heading out yesterday for a practice round on the PGA Centenary Course.
“I’ve already had a great experience playing in the Home Internationals for the first time at Ganton [Yorkshire] last week – I really enjoyed that.
“I’m now really looking forward to this week. I’ve not really got any expectations. I’m here to enjoy it and I’m determined to do that.”
Culverwell, who won the SGU’s flagship event at Blairgowrie, is back in Perthshire along with Stirling University team-mate Graeme Robertson, the second amateur invitee.
“It’s a golf course I know well from playing here with Stirling University and hopefully that will work to my benefit this week,” added the Dunbar and Bruntsfield Links member.
“It would obviously be great if I could make the cut, but I’m not trying to think about that too much. I’ve been hitting a lot of fairways and greens recently and hopefully I can continue doing that.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say the course suits my game, but I think it’s similar in a way to Dalmahoy, where I play a lot in practice.”
Finishing seventh on the Tartan Tour Order of Merit last season has earned Fenwick the biggest occasion so far in his career.
“This is my first European Tour event and I’m really looking forward to it,” said the 25-year-old, who hung up his football boots to do his PGA training at Dunbar.
“I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve just got to go out and make sure I enjoy myself and see what happens.”
Now in his second season as a full-time Tour pro, Fenwick has been competing mainly on the third-tier EuroPro Tour this year. “I’ve been playing nicely but getting in the way of myself a bit by trying too hard,” he added. “My game is there and I feel it is going to click one week and hopefully this will be it.
“A few people are coming up to watch me, which will give me some confidence, and hopefully I can give a good account of myself.”
Gareth Wright, another Edinburgh-based player in this week’s field, has already done that on the pro stage this season by making the cut in last month’s Open at Muirfield.
This is the first of two consecutive European Tour starts for the 32-year-old as he has also secured a spot in next week’s Wales Open at Celtic Manor.
“I only found out about Wales last week and it’s great to know that I’m playing at this level two weeks in a row,” admitted the West Linton-attached pro.
He made the cut at Gleneagles 12 months ago and is feeling confident he can repeat the feat on the back of a memorable week at Muirfield.
“Making the cut in The Open shows that you’ve got the game to compete at this level. And, if I play the game I know I have, then I should do well over the next two weeks,” said Wright.
“I was quite tired mentally after Muirfield and the Scottish PGA (he finished second on the neighbouring King’s Course a fortnight ago).
“But I’m raring to go again and, after these two events, I’ve then got the start of the European Tour Qualifying School then the PGA Cup to look forward to.”
This week’s event is the last on the Perthshire course before it stages the Ryder Cup in 13 months’ time.
And, with European captain Paul McGinley having admitted he’s a “horses for courses” man, Lothians star Stephen Gallacher will be determined to maintain his good Gleneagles record in this week’s event.
Defending champion Paul Lawrie and Italian Francesco Molinari are the only two players from last year’s ‘Miracle at Medinah’ in a line-up that contains no less than 25 Scots.