Stonehaven’s Sam Locke steadied the ship in the wind at Royal Aberdeen yesterday to keep himself in the hunt for the Amateur Championship’s match-play stage.
The initial qualifying round of the 123rd instalment of the prestigious competition got under way in the city yesterday, with 288 players playing their first round at either par-71 Royal Aberdeen or par-70 Murcar Links.
They were each set to play the opposite course today, ending the stroke-play stage of the tourney, at which the top 64 players including ties will progress to match-play.
Locke, 19, started at Balgownie, alongside Switzerland’s Jeremy Freiburghaus and Castle Royle’s David Langley, just after noon, by which point the wind was beginning to pick up, making low scoring difficult.
Despite this, Locke, the current Scottish Boys champion, was one-under by the turn, following up a bogey on the first with birdies at two and six.
However, the wheels threatened to come off on 14 after another bogey on 10.
Locke said: “I was doing alright, but hit a bad tee shot on 14 and made a double there.
“It doesn’t take much in weather like that and it ended up heavy rough.”
“I think the scores were getting a bit worse as the day went on, but the course is in great condition.
“There was nothing wrong with the course, but it’s just a bit tough with the wind going.”
After another bogey on 16, the Stonehaven ace finished with two solid pars, and at three-over and tied for 38th was still in the hunt for the end of the week.
Reflecting, he said: “It was alright to be honest. It got quite tough towards the end.
“The wind got up quite a bit and I felt I done ok to hang in there.”
Locke, who admitted he was hoping for calmer conditions in his round at Murcar today and had walked Royal Aberdeen with the city’s 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie before the Amateur Championship started, added: “My game’s been getting better.
“I’ve been practising a bit on the courses here, because I’ve struggled a bit in my last few events.
“I seem to be getting better again.
“My first goal is just to make sure I’m in the top 64, that’s all I’m thinking about just now.
“You can’t win it until Saturday, so I’ll just take it one round at a time.”
There’s a lot at stake for Locke and the other players this week, who are from all over the world – the winner will not only bag a place at Carnoustie for the Open next month, but is also traditionally entered at next year’s Masters and US Open.
The other two competitors from the north-east, Adam Fisher of Newmachar and Stephen Roger of Peebles, formerly of Cruden Bay, both played their first rounds at Murcar yesterday.
Fisher carded a six-over-par 76 and was tied for 111th, while Roger took two more shots for a 78 and a tie for 184th.
Possibly because of increasing winds, on what was quite a sunny day, those with earlier tee times had the best of it across both venues.
At Royal Aberdeen David Micheluzzi and Sam Meek both managed two-under-par 68s to sit joint second, while the overall lead belonged to South African Wilco Nienaber – a 66 at the lower-par Murcar putting him two shots ahead of any player in the field.
Fifth-ranked amateur in the world – Norway’s Viktor Hovland, who played Royal Aberdeen and is the highest-ranked player at this year’s event, was tied for third on -1.
The world’s seventh-ranked amateur player, Matthew Jordan of Royal Liverpool, was tied for 22nd after his two-over round.
Entry to the Amateur Championship, which runs until Saturday at Royal Aberdeen and has been won by household names ranging from Rory McIlroy to Jack Nicklaus, is free.