London 2012 Olympics: Edinburgh pals Culverwell and Ross clash in Highlands

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NEAR neighbours Zander Culverwell and James Ross were going head-to-head in the Highlands today with a place in the last 16 of the Scottish Amateur Championship up for grabs.

Hopes of a Lothians winner emerging on Saturday night at Royal Dornoch were dented when Baberton’s Paul Ferrier, the No. 4 seed, crashed out in the third round. But Capital duo Culverwell and Ross 
both still had the title firmly in their sights heading into the fourth day of the SGU’s flagship event.

Culverwell has swept into the last 32 without having to go beyond the 15th hole, setting up his mouth-watering clash against his former Royal Burgess team-mate with a 4 and 3 win over Ayr Belleisle’s Ciar Porciani.

“I was a bit scrappy and didn’t play well to begin with, but had a good spell in the middle,” said the 2006 Lothians champion, who is entered out of home club Dunbar but is also a member of Bruntsfield Links. That “good spell” included an eagle-3 at the ninth that put him four up at the turn.

On his next test, Culverwell added: “James lives just round the corner from me in Edinburgh, but I don’t think we’ve actually played against each other before. It should be a good match and this is a course where you need to drive the ball well, which is one of my strengths.”

Ross, a semi-finalist at Western Gailes 12 months ago, has been a model of consistency in making it to the fourth round.

His 4 and 3 victory over Elderslie’s Alasdair McDougall was the third time he’d won by that margin in three matches – to the amusement of his American girlfriend, Meghan.

“I’ve never had that before and Meghan thinks the 15th is the final hole,” joked Ross, who reckons steering clear of the punishing bunkers has been the key to his progress so far.

On facing Culverwell, the recent Sutherland Chalice winner said: “We grew up together at the Burgess playing boys’ championships but I don’t think we’ve played against each other.”

Ferrier, the fourth seed, bowed out to Kirkhill’s Craig Ross after leaving himself with a mountain to climb in their third-round tussle.

After losing the opening three holes to pars, Ferrier was five down at the turn before staging a back-nine fightback.

“I turned it on coming home and got it back to one down with two to play but then got a bit unlucky to lose the 17th,” said the Amateur Championship semi-finalist.

“It’s disappointing as I came here hoping I could win but I’m looking forward to the next two weeks, when I’ve got the European Individual then the Home Internationals.”

Other Lothians players still standing after the first three days of match-play jousts were Harburn’s Craig Deerness and Craigielaw duo Greg Smail and Grant Forrest. Deerness, the beaten finalist in this year’s Lothians Championship, was happy as a sandboy after overcoming serious bunker trouble to book his last-32 spot.

The 30-year-old Harburn player progressed with a 2 and 1 win over English-based Chris Heslip from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire.

“I hit the ball well again but I seriously need to work on my bunker play as I gave him four holes after being in traps,” said Deerness, whose grandfather, Jim Clarkson, played for 
Dunfermline Athletic in the 1950s.

Smail claimed two notable scalps as the 19-year-old reached the fourth round for the second year running.

He beat 2003 winner Graham Gordon in the morning then knocked out former Scottish Youths’ champion Scott Borrowman.

“I played well today,” he said. “I lost the first against Scott but won the next three and got a bit of rhythm going after that.”

Forrest, the 2010 Scottish Boys’ champion, survived a back-nine fightback from local lad Lyle McAlpine, last year’s Scottish Youths’ champion, to win on the last after being four up at the turn.

“Lyle was four-under for the back nine so it wasn’t a case of me throwing holes away,” said Forrest.