Blairgowrie’s Connor Graham is the next man with a chance to take down top seed Ben Murray while clubmate Cormac Sharpe also had a day to remember in the Scottish Amateur at Murcar Links.
Both Blair youngsters moved into the last 16 along with a host of fancied names but there were a few surprises as well, including a first round defeat for co-leading qualifier Josh Greer and two fine wins from the US-based teenager Niall Shiels Donegan, who now faces another Perthshire player in Rory Franssen.
‘Keep mistakes to a minimum’
Murray, the leading qualifier from Portlethen, narrowly avoided the usual fate of top seeds on the first day of matchplay but it was a close run thing, as he had to battle back from three down against Aldeburgh’s Gregor Tait in his second round game.
“Gregor is a fantastic ball striker, one of the best I’ve played against,” said Murray. “The birdie I made on seven (to get back to two down) was crucial and fortunately he made a few mistakes after that and let me back into the game.
“My main objective this week is to keep the mistakes to a minimum and I did that pretty well considering the conditions were the toughest we have faced all week.
“This has been a big few days for me,” he added. “I’ve struggled mentally for the last five years wondering if I was good enough to compete at this sort of level. But sharing first place in the qualifying and then getting through two rounds today gives me a lot of confidence.”
Training day at Ladybank delayed
His next challenge is Graham, who beat Murray’s club-mate Graham Innes 3 & 2 in the morning but then had to go all the way to the 21st before ending the challenge of Stephen Roger from Peebles in the afternoon.
Graham was meant to be at Scotland squad training at Ladybank for next week’s Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa, but he is otherwise engaged, at least for the morning.
“It was quite challenging with the wind and that but I managed to play quite well and hit good shots at the right time,” he said. “It’s great to get through.”
Sharpe had a hole-in-one at the short fifth in the morning round but just edged through by one hole against Roddy McCauley, and had an easier ride in the afternoon against Clark Brechin winning 3 and 2.
Scott safely through to play Davidson
Calum Scott (Nairn) was also due to be taking part in the same Ladybank session but will instead play in the last 16.
Scott, younger brother of the injured Walker Cup pick Sandy, will face Andrew Davidson from the Crail Golfing Society.
The biggest win in the second round came from Auchterarder’s Franssen. He was stretched to the 17th before defeating Craig Pirie (Millport) in the morning but far quicker to dispose of Shaun Hedger from West Kilbride, 7 & 6 in the last 32.
Franssen now plays Shiels Donegan, the son of the author and golf writer Lawrence Donegan. The California-based youngster has impressed all summer in boys golf and continues to do so in the highest level, beating the highly-rated Ben Carberry from Falkirk in the last 32.
Franssen finds matchplay Murcar tougher
Franssen said the Murcar Links had got appreciably tougher from strokeplay qualifying to matchplay yesterday.
“I got off to a really good start,” he said. “I was three under through four and from there I just tried to keep it in a straight line.
“It was playing a lot harder than the first couple of days. The tee shots on the front nine were much more challenging. You had to hit a three wood or a hybrid instead of banging a four iron down there.
“Holes that previously you were looking to make birdie on were suddenly tough to make fours. I’m delighted to get through.”
Burns still on course for retaining his title
Still hanging in is defending champion George Burns. The Crail man fighting back to beat the host club’s Anthony Bews in the second round and birdieing the first extra hole to progress.
His bid to repeat continues with a third round match against fellow Scottish international Darren Howie from Peebles.
“My nerve endings are destroyed after that,” said Burns. The last 16 sounds good though. It’s always a bonus to get to this sort of stage and anything can happen from now on.”