Scotland’s Darren Howie led the qualifiers for the match play stage of the 91st Boys Amateur Championship at Nairn and Nairn Dunbar today.
The 17-year-old carded a level par round of 72 at Nairn to finish on an eight-under-par total of 136 for the two stroke play qualifying rounds, one shot clear of Frenchman Aymeric Laussot and England's Alex Fitzpatrick.
Howie, who represented Scotland in last week’s Boys Home Internationals, got off to a great start with three birdies in his opening five holes but lost momentum with dropped shots at the 6th and 7th. A birdie at the 15th was sandwiched by two more dropped shots but it was enough for the Peebles player to retain the lead.
“I’m a little frustrated. I felt like I could have been a lot better,” said Howie. “I was off to a good start again - three-under through five holes – but I sort of struggled from there. I just kept things going – it wasn’t like I was under too much stress. It wasn’t the best I’ve played but it was still solid enough.
With wind speeds strengthening throughout the day, few players managed to make much headway but Laussot defied the conditions with an excellent six-under-par 66 at Nairn Dunbar to move to a seven-under-par total. The 17-year-old closed off his front nine with a pair of birdies and picked up further shots at the 12th and the 15th before putting his 210 yard approach at the par five 16th to 10ft and holing out for an eagle.
Commenting after is round, Laussot said, “It was a very good round and I played great golf. I just played in a good zone. I’m very, very happy because this year I have worked very hard. I just wanted to make the cut and it’s cool to be second. Now it is another tournament in the match play and I hope I will win all my matches.”
Fitzpatrick, the younger brother of three-time European Tour winner Matt, drove the green on the par four 15th at Nairn and holed from 13ft for an eagle on his way to a three-under-par 69 to finish on the same mark as Laussot.
“I’m pretty pleased. I really didn’t think that going out and shooting three-under again would be possible with the wind today but I played it safe, stuck to my game plan and seemed to hole my putts – so it’s a pretty good score.”
Fitzpatrick said brother Matt has been in touch to give his support. ““He sent me a text yesterday just saying ‘keep smashing it’ so hopefully he’ll see what I can do in match play!”
The Hallamshire golfer led a clutch of Englishmen who were among the leading qualifiers with Danny Daniels on five-under-par, alongside Sweden’s David Nyfjall who reached the semi final of the Boys Amateur last year, and William Dodds and Curtis Knipes a shot further back.
They were joined on four-under-par by the 2016 Junior Open champion Pedro Lencart and Frenchman Clement Charmasson.
The cut fell on two-over-par with 74 players progressing to the match play stage. A preliminary round will be held first thing tomorrow before the second round gets underway. Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes before concluding with a 36 hole final on Sunday.