Grant Forrest and Zander Culverwell start well at Carnoustie

Zander Culverwell hit an eagle-3 at the 12th
Zander Culverwell hit an eagle-3 at the 12th
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Hot putters helped Lothians duo Grant Forrest and Zander Culverwell to both become Carnoustie par-breakers in the opening qualifying round in the Amateur Championship.

Taking advantage of relatively benign conditions at The Open venue in Angus, Forrest fired a five-under 67 while Culverwell also got his bid off to a good start with a 70.

Their efforts left both players heading for nearby Panmure for today’s second and final stroke-play round in strong positions to be among the top 64 and ties for the match-play phase.

Craigielaw star Forrest signed for seven birdies, including one at the 17th, where he went with his driver off the tee and knocked it over both sweeps of the burn. “I made a 25-footer there and holed two others from a similar distance,” said the Walker Cup contender. “I putted really well today, holing a couple 15 footers as well and not missing from inside six feet.

“It’s a good start. I wouldn’t say it was easy out there, but there was hardly any wind and that helps a lot round here.

“I also hit it well off the tee and that makes things easier. In fact, a couple of the par-5s basically became par-4s as a result of getting good drives away.”

Forrest felt hampered by a hip injury as he finished his four-year stint at the University of San Diego.

But, since being able to get some treatment on returning to Scotland, he is back swinging the club unrestrained.

“There are certain things in the training rooms over in the States that they won’t do because of the threat of them being sued,” said the former Scottish Amateur champion.

“After playing a long stretch of tournaments, my hip became a bit of a hindrance, especially in April and May.

“But I’ve been able to get some physiotherapy and also some acupuncture since I came home and it is a lot better now.”

Dunbar ace Culverwell was also “happy” with his start, reporting that he’d both “putted very well” and also reaped the rewards of a “good course strategy”.

His round was illuminated by an eagle-3 at the 12th, where a 20-footer dropped to “get a bit of momentum going” on the back nine.

“I holed a great putt from the back of the green at the first,” reported the 2013 Scottish Amateur champion afterwards. “I also knocked in a good one at the last for a bogey after hitting my drive there into the water on the right.”

The sub-par start was a timely boost for Culverwell as it’s not been the best of seasons for the Lothians champion since he decided to stay in the amateur ranks rather than turning professional.

“I’ve been struggling a wee bit,” he admitted. “I didn’t get into the St Andrews Links Trophy and that was actually a blessing in disguise.

“It allowed me to get some work done on my game and the week’s practice, coupled with playing in an event at The Renaissance Club at the weekend, was just what I needed.”

Tantallon’s Chris Low matched Forrest’s birdie at the 17th but then dropped a shot at the last as he opened with a 74 at Carnoustie.

Pick of the Lothians contingent at Panmure was Forrest’s clubmate, Greg Smail, though he has work on his hands to make the knock-out phase after an up-and-down round of 73.

His card contained three birdies, but four bogeys and a double-bogey left him sitting on three-over par.

That was one better than both Tantallon’s Calum Hill and Anthony Blaney from Liberton, however, as they also produced mixed bags at Panmure.

Hill was left playing catch up after a double-bogey 7 at the second while Blaney had six bogeys and a double-bogey in between birdies at the 1st and 18th.