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Fife-born Aussie Connor McKinney claims the St Andrews Links Trophy

Connor McKinney with the Links Trophy on the Swilcan Bridge.
Connor McKinney with the Links Trophy on the Swilcan Bridge.

Fife finally has a St Andrews Links trophy champion for the first time in 18 years, but Connor McKinney’s triumph on the Old Course on Sunday is really one for Australia.

The 19-year-old, born in Dunfermline but resident in Western Australia since he was 12, produced a spectacular final round 65 to leapfrog fellow Aussie Adam Brady to victory.

McKinney’s winning aggregate was 272 – 17-under after two rounds on the Jubilee and two on the Old on Sunday.

Connor is technically the first Scot to win the Links Trophy since Grant Forrest in 2015 and the first Fifer since Jamie McCleary in 2004. But he’s committed to Golf Australia and is part of the group of Aussie players touring the big Amateur events in the UK.

‘I was born just an hour from here’

“To win the Australian Amateur was my previous highlight, but to win at the Home of Golf is pretty special, you can’t ask for more than that,” he said. “I was born just an hour from here as well.”

A storming run around the loop set up McKinney’s final round charge. Brady, from the same Western Australia stable,  had taken a three-shot advantage on the field after 54 holes.

But McKinney was still in the final group of the day having shared the lead at halfway, and was able turn a strong start into a brilliant final surge.

The run of six birdies in eight holes, starting from the 7th, turned the tournament back his way. He could afford the safety-first five at the Road Hole 17th, his only bogey of the round.

“I struggled in this third round in the morning, but I finished with a birdie there and that gave me some real momentum for the final round.

“Back in Perth nearly every afternoon we get a good bit of wind, and my home course is pretty exposed to it, so even though it was tricky I was used to it.

“It’s pretty cool to play the course as it’s getting ready for the 150th Open. You’re picking the lines off the tee off the TV Towers, and walking up 18 there was a pretty special thing.”

Another impressive performance from Connor

Scotland’s best finisher was Blairgowrie’s 15-year-old prodigy Connor Graham, after rounds of 69 and 70 on the Old Course on Sunday.

Four shots back going into the final 18, Connor had an outside chance but two three-putts on the third and sixth cost him bogeys on the front nine. He did have three birdies as well, the highlight being a superb tee shot to four feet at the short eighth.

Hopes were raised by further birdies at the 12th and 13th and even one at the Road Hole. But dropped shots at two of the more traditional ‘birdie’ holes – the long 14th and at the 18th – knocked him back into a tie for seventh.

His final round left him at nine-under, eight shots back of the winner.

George Burns, beaten in a play-off last year and having shared the halfway lead, fell away on Sunday with rounds of 77 and 71.

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