On Thursday 20 July the top fifteen players from the Strokeplay Championship the previous week returned to the links at Wigtownshire County to contest the Matchplay Championship. On a dull summer’s morning the holder, Cameron Gray (Kirkcudbright) drove off against Kaleb Johnston (Portpatrick) in the first game of the First Round as the winner of the South StrokePlay Championship, William Squires (Kirkcudbright) received a bye. Kaleb struggled to find his true form but Cameron was firing on all cylinders and after being four up after 10 holes ran out the winner by 7 & 5.
Glen Irvine (D&G) took an early lead with some excellent putting in the next game against Callum McMillan (Kirkcudbright) and despite a fighting response from Callum, Glen eventually won by 3 & 2. Two Dumfriesshire boys, Neil Macdonald (D&C) and Taylor Kerr (Sanquhar) had a marvellous battle in the third game. Neil took an early lead of one hole and held it till the twelfth before the more experienced Taylor fought back to win by one hole.
The game between Iain Rae (Dalbeattie) and Sam Mitchell (Portpatrick) was next in the draw. The older and more experienced Iain struggled to match the consistent play of the younger Sam but eventually it was a relieved Iain who walked off the seventeenth green with a 2 & 1 victory. Two up-and-coming youngsters, David Hastings (Portpatrick) and Patrick Innes (Kirkcudbright), fought out an evenly matched battle. Patrick gained a two hole lead after twelve holes and hung on to win 3 & 2.
The penultimate game of the first round was the tie of the round. Two of the best junior golfers in the South went head-to-head in a wonderful sporting game with much friendly banter between them. Both Nathan Watson (Kirkcudbright) and Jamie Marchbank (D&G) produced some marvellous golf and it took Jamie to the nineteenth hole to overcome his opponent and progress to the next round.
The final game of the First Round was between two very unevenly matched players. Rory Dodds, a thirty handicapper from Stranraer had been drawn against Mitchell Cowie, the recently crowned Junior Champion from D&C. As Rory came off the sixth green he was heard to say “Six down. All I want to do is win one hole!!” He did even better and won two holes before finally being beaten by 7 & 5. All credit to Rory for never giving up and fighting to the end.
The sun came out in the afternoon and the air temperature rose considerably to produce an excellent day for golf and how the boys responded in the quarter-finals. The most intriguing game was the first game out after lunch between the 2017 Junior Champion, William Squires (Kirkcudbright) and the 2016 Matchplay Champion, Cameron Gray (Kirkcudbright). Both boys were totally focussed and produced some marvellous scoring on the beautifully presented links. Cameron started the better and was one up after 7 only to lose the eighth to a wonderfully constructed birdie by William. William was again one down, after twelve, and three down after fifteen. He won sixteen and seventeen but they both halved eighteen for a one hole Cameron victory.
Taylor Kerr (Sanquhar) took an early commanding lead over Glen Irvine, winning four of the first six holes which he maintained to the twelfth before Glen started his fight back. He reduced the deficit but unfortunately ran out of holes and lost 3 & 2. The more experienced Iain Rae (Dalbeattie) and the young Patrick Innes(Kirkcudbright) were all square after five holes but Iain won the next three holes and although Patrick battled well he did not have the fire power and lost 5 & 4.
The last game in the quarter-finals matched Jamie Marchbank (D&G) with Mitchell Cowie (D&C) two very good golfers who were both playing at the top of their game and were to produce a match of outstanding quality. Mitchell was two up after four and no matter what Jamie threw at him Mitchell had the answer and ran out the victor by 4 & 3.
The weather on Friday 21 July for the semi-finals and final was horrendous. Driving rain on a 20 – 30 mph wind made conditions extremely difficult and it would be the survival of the fittest who would be this year’s champion.
In the first semi-final Cameron Gray won the first two holes against Taylor Kerr but Taylor got it back to all square with a tremendous bunker shot on the sixth. Cameron then took control and was four up after eleven and ran out the victor by 5 & 4. In the other game Iain Rae was two up on Mitchell Cowie after 6 holes but Mitchell fought back to be all square after eleven. Mitchell continued his steady play to be one up after fourteen and eventually won 3 & 1.
The incessant rain continued in the afternoon for the final between Cameron Gray and Mitchell Cowie although the wind did eventually relent on the back nine. Cameron won the first with a regulation par, Mitchell retaliated with a birdie on the second and an up-and-down for par on the third. Cameron got it back to all square on the fourth with a birdie before the next five holes were halved in pars. All square at the turn; the tenth was halved in birdies and the eleventh and twelfth in pars before the run of eight halves was ended when Mitchell won thirteen with a par. Cameron’s second shot finished inches from the hole on fourteen and although Mitchell’s birdie putt burned the edge of the hole it was back to all square. Cameron conceded the fifteenth after a wayward drive but then birdied sixteen to get the game back to all square. Mitchell had a par three on seventeen and matched Cameron shot for shot up eighteen for a half and a one hole victory. Mitchell played the eighteen holes in level par, and apart from Cameron’s wayward drive on fifteen he would have been round in one over par. Played in the most sporting of spirits, in terrible overhead conditions, this was a marvellous advertisement for Junior golf in the South of Scotland from two boys at the top of their form
Bye William Squires (Kirkcudbright)
Cameron Gray (Kirkcudbright) beat Kaleb Johnston (Portpatrick) by 7 & 5
Glen Irvine (D&G) beat Callum McMillan (Kirkcudbright) by 3 & 2
Taylor Kerr (Sanquhar) beat Neil Macdonald (D&C) by 1 hole
Iain Rae (Dalbeattie) beat Sam Mitchell (Portpatrick) by 2 & 1
Patrick Innes (Kirkcudbright) beat David Hastings (Portpatrick) by 3 & 2
Jamie Marchbank (D&G) beat Nathan Watson (Kirkcudbright) at nineteenth
Mitchell Cowie (D&C) beat Rory Dodds (Stranraer) by 7 & 5
Cameron Gray beat William Squires by 1 hole
Taylor Kerr beat Glen Irvine by 3 & 2
Iain Rae beat Patrick Innes by 5 & 4
Mitchell Cowie beat Jamie Marchbank by 4 & 3
Cameron Gray beat Taylor Kerr by 5 & 4
Mitchell Cowie beat Iain Rae by 3 & 1
Mitchell Cowie beat Cameron Gray by 1 hole
The attached photograph shows the Champion, Mitchell Cowie being presented with the trophy by Stephen Kingston, SoSGA President, with runner-up Cameron Gray in attendance.