Euan Walker has been coming to St Andrews “for years and years” but has never seen the New Course play as fast and fiery as it did in the first round of the St Andrews Links Trophy.
Next to no rain for two months has the New baked hard and golden for Europe’s premier amateur strokeplay event, and Walker’s three-under 68 leaves him one off the lead held by Frilford Heath’s Olly Huggins.
“I’ve been coming to St Andrews for years, played 100s of times, all the courses, but never seen it as firm and fast as this,” said 22 year old from the Kilmarnock Barassie club. “It makes it more difficult if anything, very tricky to judge how far the ball’s going to go, and I think you see that in the scores.”
Walker just missed an eagle at the long 12th hitting in with a three-wood when most were using irons, but he was pleased enough with his opening outing.
“I’m reasonably happy, although I left a lot of shots out there,” he said. “I’ve been consistent this season without really being in contention, but this would be a good week to get among the leaders.”
The international nature of the field was as usual reflected in the variety of flags on the leaderboard, South Africa’s Luca Filippi, Matia Honkala of Finland and India’s much admired youngster Rayhan Thomas all in the top ten.
Six Englishmen including Huggins in the top 12 indicates the strength of their team but defending champion Matthew Jordan (Royal Liverpool) managed a par 71 to lie in a tie for 27th.
There were strong Scottish performances from Sandy Scott – a top five finisher here when just 17 – who shot a one-under 70.
“I’m just glad to get back to playing true links golf,” said the Nairn 19-year-old, who is at Texas Tech University in the US. “I played okay today, nothing too drastic just steady stuff.”
Keiran Cantley, winner of both opening events in the Scottish senior season at the Champion of Champions and Craigmillar Park Open, also had a 70 as did Inverness’ Rory Franssen,
“It was very tough out there and the back the nine felt much longer and harder than the front nine so delighted to shoot under par,” he said.
“The greens today were a lot faster than in practice and you had to allow for a lot of roll outs.”
The field play another round on the New Course today and qualifiers play 36 holes on the Old Course on Sunday.