On Tuesday 11 April all roads for six of the South Junior squad led to Monifeith, Angus to compete in the Scottish Boys Open Championship from Wednesday 12 April to Friday 14 April. This was a strokeplay event and a new experience for the boys as this was traditionally the time of year of the Matchplay Championship. Wednesday dawned dry and cold but with a very strong wind which the boys found difficult to master particularly on the hard fast greens and three putts were quite common among the 144 competitors.

William Squires (Kirkcudbright) took the honours for the South with a fine 76. Playing well he was level par on the outward nine with one birdie and one bogey but unfortunately dropped 5 shots on the more difficult back nine and finished tied 19th on the day. Nathan Watson (Kirkcudbright) also played well for his 78 with 3 birdies, 6 pars, 8 bogeys and one double bogey. He had three 3 putts and finished tied 39th.

Finlay Copland (D&G) had a horrendous day with the driver and was nine over par for the first nine. He shot 86 which left him a lot to do the next day to make the cut. Angus Bendall (Castle Douglas) got off to a bad start to be four over after 6, recovered and was six over after 12 and finished strongly on eight over for 79 and tied 53rd.

Harry Austin (D&C) played well and was two over after 6, dropped a few shots around the turn but steadied and finished seven over and tied 53rd with Angus. Cameron Gray (Kirkcudbright) had a nightmare with 43 putts in his 86. Scoring generally was high with only two competitors breaking the par of 71. It was a hard day for low scoring and the potential for damage was considerable. There were plenty of scores in the 80s and some in the 90s.

The conditions eased slightly for the second qualifying round on the Thursday and all the boys went out full of hope and determination to better their first round score.

Angus Bendall got off to a great start with a birdie on the first and played steadily to complete the outward nine in 37, one over par. He struggled from a couple of greenside bunkers and dropped shots at 11, 13, 17 and 18 when putts refused to drop meant he had to sign for another 79 and a total of 158. Harry Austin was five over par after nine holes and finished nine over with a round of 80 and a tie with Angus on 158.

Cameron Gray went out determined to improve his putting and better his score of the previous day. He played the first nine in two over par but unfortunately could not sustain the effort and leaked shots on the inward nine to finish with a score of 78 and a total of 164. Finlay Copland, too, had a point to prove, and by driving better and hitting more fairways gave himself the chance to hit more greens and he was 3 over after 12 holes with a birdie at the 8th. He didn’t play the last 6 holes very well as the early evening got windier and colder, although he finished in style with a birdie at the last. A score of 77 gave him a total of 163.

Nathan Watson started well, being two over after 6 holes but then had two sevens in the next three holes and his tournament was virtually over. His first 7 was due to a lost ball on the fairway (most possibly down one of the many rabbit holes) which unsettled him and then a fairway bunker on 9 put paid to a promising start.  He battled hard but two more double bogeys on the inward nine completed his misery for the day. An uncharacteristic 85 for a total of 163 left him bitterly disappointed. William Squires again showed the others how to do it with a good round of 77 only marred by dropping three shots over the last three holes. He was one over after 6 holes, with some great recovery shots early on, and two over after 12 before his unfortunate lapse in concentration. With a total score of 153 he was the only one from the South to make the cut and return for 36 holes on Friday. The CSS for the second round was 72.

William Squires, the last man still standing from the 6 South boys who set out full of hope on Wednesday morning, was one of the first out on Friday morning. He started very steadily and was out in 38 with a birdie at the 8th hole and continued his good form on the back nine to come home in 38, 3 over par, to post a round of 76. In the afternoon he fought bravely to be four over par for the outward nine and was going well until he started to tire and dropped four shots over the closing four holes and finished with an 80, his worst score of the week. His total score for the four rounds was 309.

This has been stiff learning curve for all the boys playing in a national championship and the experience gained should stand them in good stead for the season ahead. The weather conditions at this time of year were never going to be easy but having to fight a strong wind every day made playing golf even more difficult. William did exceptionally well to make the top 40 and compete in the final 36 holes and this will give him bragging rights over the rest of the South squad for some time to come.

William Squires