Lothians amateur stars begin bids to play in the Open

The journey starts on Monday for a number of Lothians amateur aces bidding to follow in the footsteps of Sam Locke.

The Aberdonian won the Silver Medal as leading amateur in The Open at Carnoustie last year and the scramble for spots at Royal Portrush this time around is about to get 

Regional qualifying events throughout the UK and Ireland include 18-hole shoot-outs involving Lothians hopefuls at Panmure and Goswick, near Berwick.

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Among those heading to the Angus venue are Murrayfield pair Alastair Thurlow and Andrew Ni, the latter having capped off a strong season on the US college circuit by finishing fourth in the NJCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship in Florida last month.

The amateur contingent at Panmure also includes former Scottish Boys champion Eric McIntosh, who is back for the summer from Northwestern University in Illinois, as well as Tantallon’s Richard Gill and Murray Naysmith (Dalmahoy).

Berwick-bound, meanwhile, are Liberton’s Kieran Cantley, one of six Scots in the initial GB&I squad for this year’s Walker Cup, and Scottish Boys’ champion Connor Wilson from Castle Park.

The professional hopefuls at Panmure include former Scottish Amateur champions John Gallagher (Duddingston) and Zander Culverwell (The Renaissance Club).

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Among those joining them are former Lothians champion Mark Hillson (Golf Traveller), as well as Rory Smith (Dalmahoy), Cameron Marr (Musselburgh) and Paul McKechnie (Braid Hills).

Finding his form again after a spell when he wasn’t play much, former European Tour player Craig Lee will be among the players to beat in Angus.

Seeking Goswick glory, meanwhile, are two of the Saltman brothers, Lloyd and Zack, who are attached to The Renaissance Club and Winterfield respectively.

Dunbar’s Neil Fenwick is also heading down the A1 along with Scott Gillies (North Berwick), James Dick (Duddingston), Michael Bacigalupo (Glen), Marc Owenson (Gullane), Neil Henderson (The Renaissance Club) and James Ross (Royal Burgess).

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Ross is trying his luck after making the trip from Houston, where the 2013 Scottish Amateur Golfer of the Year is based.

For the lucky ones at the regional stage, the next step will be final qualifying a week on Tuesday, with the Scottish venue this year being Fairmont St Andrews.

Just three spots will be on offer there in the field for Royal Portrush as it stages The Open for the first time since 1951.