SGU ‘should promote Craigmillar Park Open’

2014 Craigmillar Park Open winner Craig Watson with club captain Karen Ballantyne
2014 Craigmillar Park Open winner Craig Watson with club captain Karen Ballantyne
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Golden oldie Craig Watson believes the Scottish Golf Union has a duty to help the Craigmillar Park Open, won in the past by a host of big names led by Nick Faldo, attract a strongest field possible.

The 47-year-old former Amateur champion won the Capital event for the second time last weekend, having initially claimed the title back in 1995.

Watson triumphed on this occasion without the presence of most of Scotland’s leading amateurs as they were in Wales instead competing in the 
Duncan Putter.

“I believe it was only because the Home Internationals are at Southerndown this year that the group of boys went down there at the weekend,” said the former Scottish captain. “I hope that’s the only reason as the Scottish Golf Union should be supporting the Order of Merit events. We all know that Craigmillar Park is not the most challenging of courses but a lot of work goes into preparing the course for us and also putting on the event.”

Watson, who shot rounds of 70 and 68 to win by two shots in an event reduced to 36 holes due to Saturday’s gale-force winds, enjoyed rolling back the years. But he reckons he has little or no chance of using the triumph as the foundation to make a spectacular return to the Scottish side later in the year.

“When I was captain, we picked the best team no matter the age,” observed the East Renfrewshire player. “But now it is geared towards the young boys. Matt Clark has got in the last couple of years but he’s probably ten years older than they’d want him to be.

“I’d need to win four or five Order of Merit events to have a chance but it would be nice if we felt it was an open field.”

Watson’s second win in the Capital came as Matt Kuchar was making an ultimately unsuccessful bid to make his major breakthrough in The Masters the same day.

The pair both played at Augusta in 1988 – Watson as the Amateur champion and Kuchar as the US Amateur title-holder.

“Like anyone else, I watch The Masters and it’s nice to think you’ve played in that yourself,” admitted Watson, who earned his place by beating South African Trevor Immelman, who went on to win the season’s opening major, at Royal St George’s. But the course is probably 1000 yards longer now than it was when I was there.

“Matt Kuchar and I played in the Georgia Cup the week before our Masters appearance together and he did well in his first couple of majors as an amateur. I had money on both him and Jordan Spieth last week but, unfortunately for me, they both came up just short.”

At Craigmillar Park, it was Musselburgh’s Benn McLeod who come up just short as Watson made the most of the event being curtailed for the second year running.

“The fact it was over 36 holes probably helped and so did the weather,” he admitted. “I was also out first and probably got the best of the conditions.

“It is nice to win an Order of Merit event again, though it was a bit of a shock. My results have been okay without getting up near the top of leaderboards.

“I get into Craigmillar Park as a past winner. It’s nice that they do that and it would be good if some other events did the same thing. If I don’t have to travel too far I’ll play in events. The Tennant Cup and Cameron Corbett Vase, for instance.

“But I’m not interested in playing any more in events like the Scottish Amateur or Scottish Stroke-Play. As for the St Andrews Links Trophy, it’s laughable what the cut-off for that is now. It will be plus four before too long. Then you look the scores and you think it should be a Tour event.”