by Keith Hamblin
LOCAL golfer Kurt Yule is hoping to make a big impression when he competes in the Scottish Boys Championship at Dunbar next week.
The event is one of the most prestigious on the calendar and Kurt, who is 16, says he is going into it with an open mind.
“It is the first time I have entered the competition,” he said, “so I don’t really know how I will do. It’s matchplay, so I will have to be at my best, but I am hopeful I can put up a good performance.”
Kurt lives with his family in Berwick. He works as an assistant in the pro shop at Eyemouth Gold Club and plays at Goswick, where he represents the junior team. This year he is also vice captain of the Northumberland Boys team.
The criteria for qualification for the event are that he, his parents or grandparents must have been born in Scotland. “My grandparents are Scottish,” he said, “so that’s how I am able to play in it.”
Kurt tees off in his first tie against Richie Fitzpatrick from Ardeer at 3.17pm on Monday afternoon, and if he wins he will go into the second round on Wednesday.
“I know nothing at all about Richie,” he said, “so all I can do is go out and try and play my best.”
Kurt works in the pro-shop at Eyemouth and has only played the Dunbar course once before, but plans to get in some much-needed practice over the links prior to the event.
“Michael Hackett, who is the professional at Eyemouth, says he will take me up there for a couple of rounds, so hopefully I can get to know the course a little bit better,” he said.
Kurt first picked up a golf club at an early age, but did not take up the sport seriously until he was 13 after he stopped playing football with Berwick Rangers Juniors.
At first he played at Magdalene Fields, but then switched to Goswick, where he is a regular over the course.
In January he travelled to Spain where he played in the Andalucia Junior European U16 Championships, finishing a very creditable tenth.
He now has a handicap of only 2.7, one of the lowest in the field at the Scottish Boys Championship, but he says that won’t come into play at Dunbar.
“My aim is to get my handicap as low as I possibly can,” he said, “and one day I would like to turn professional.”
In the meantime, he is also entered for the St Andrews Boys Championship in August. It is an event he played in last year, when he failed to make the qualifying cut by just one shot.
But for the time being he is concentrating entirely on his performance at Dunbar.
Michael Hackett, who made the junior section a priority when he became Eyemouth’s first club professional four years ago, believes Kurt has all the attributes to make a career out of the game. Although he has not been working directly with Kurt as a coach, he has fitted him for equipment and has kept a close eye on the progress of his young shop assistant.
“He’s been here three years and he’s improved dramatically as a player in that time,” said Michael. “When he came here he had a handicap of 14 or 15 and now he is down to 2. He has worked very hard on his game and if he maintains that type of dedication and continues to improve I think he could be a scratch player within a year.”
Kurt passed level one of the Club Golf Scheme coaching programme, run by the Scottish Golf Union, at Craigielaw last month and plans to do undergo full PGA training when he turns 18 in order to become a pro in his own right. “He’s doing really well as a young, aspiring coach and he’s integrating well with our members,” added Michael. “He is working hard and has all the attributes to become a good pro.”
Yule is in a field of 256 players will be gathered at the famous Open Final Qualifying venue for the 70th staging of the event and the traditional start of the domestic golfing season, commencing just a few hours after the conclusion of the Masters.
Young golfers from 151 different clubs across the country will be aiming for glory.
Defending champion Grant Forrest of Craigielaw will start as one of the favourites, while Deeside’s Craig Lawrie (15), son of former Open Champion Paul Lawrie, makes his championship debut this year and having seen his dad triumph in the recent Andalucía Open in Malaga, the four-handicapper will be keen to add to his family’s trophy haul.
Famous names on the trophy include former Ryder Cup star Andrew Coltart, who won the title at Dunbar in 1987, European Tour player Steven O’Hara (1998), former European Tour player turned manager Brian Marchbank (1976) and the host town’s John Huggan (1978), now a highly respected golf journalist. Recent winners include Michael Stewart (2008) and David Law (2009), both of whom went on to lift the Scottish Amateur Championship.
SGU chief executive Hamish Gray is looking forward to the Championship getting underway.
He said: “There is always a real sense of anticipation ahead of the Scottish Boys Championship as the first major domestic event of the season and we have a strong field assembled at Dunbar this year,” said Grey.
“It’s wonderful to see representation from so many clubs across Scotland, highlighting the great work being done at junior level through clubgolf, our national development programme, with support from many PGA professionals and volunteers.
“As an Open Qualifying venue, Dunbar will provide a superb challenge for our young golfers and we are indebted to them for their continued support.”
The Scottish Boys Championship runs from Monday to Saturday.