252 of the world’s leading young amateur golfers from 28 countries are taking to the links at Nairn and Nairn Dunbar to compete in the prestigious championship this week.
The first stage comprises two qualifying rounds of stroke play before the leading 64 players progress to the match play stage. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes including the Final.
Howie, fresh from representing Scotland at the Boys Home Internationals, will now head to Nairn on Wednesday in a strong position to qualify for match play.
After a rollercoaster front nine in which he did not make par until the 7th hole, Howie capitalised on an eagle at the 9th to gain momentum and record five birdies on the way in. He picked up the first at the 12th before adding further at 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th.
Howie holed out for par on the 18th to sign for a 64, one stroke off equalling the course record, and establish a three-stroke lead over the chasing pack on five-under-par.
“I feel solid the way my game is going but as mad as it sounds there’s still some things I need to improve on,” said Howie after his round. “I had three bogeys on the first six holes which doesn’t help but from there on in I was eight-under for the last 12 holes and that was what kept me going.”
Howie, who is playing in his third and final Boys Amateur Championship, is looking forward to teeing off early at Nairn tomorrow. He said, “The courses are fairly similar. If you drive the ball well and your iron play is on you can give yourself chances.
“Top 64 was the main aim and it still is so I’m not going to think too far ahead. This is my last year in the Boys Amateur Championship and I haven’t done well in this the past couple of years so hopefully I can improve that.”
Last year’s finalist Alejandro Aguilera was pleased with his start – a three-under-par 69 – at Nairn. The Spaniard was defeated on the 38th hole by Germany’s Falko Hanisch in an enthralling final at Murifield in 2016.
“It was a good first round. The important thing is to make the cut. I really like the course (Nairn) – it’s close to the sea and that’s awesome. The rough is not as tall as it was year ago (at Muirfield) but that is good. I really link links courses. It’s been a great year. I won the Spanish Boys also so that was really good.”
On his championship debut, local golfer Jamie Mackintosh posted a three-over-par at his home course Nairn. The 18-year-old bemoaned missed putts but was still positive about his chances, saying, “I felt I was good but a few dodgy putts let me down on the back nine. The back nine was playing down wind and I shot over par. The wind was tough and I played well in the wind so things are positive for tomorrow. I am looking forward to shooting a good round and making the cut.
“Nairn Dunbar is sort of my second club. I play there once every two weeks and I’m pretty familiar with it – so I am hoping to shoot a good one.
“It feels weird to be playing the Boys Amateur Championship at my home course. I just tried to treat it like a medal round. I was nervous on the first tee but once I got out there I was fine.”
The scoring from the first round of stroke play qualifying will be available here.