Matthew Clark fired a course record 62 to finish top of the leaderboard after two rounds of stroke play qualifying in The 126thAmateur Championship at Nairn.
Your stroke play qualifying leader🥇— The R&A (@RandA) June 15, 2021
An incredible course record 6️⃣2️⃣ from Matthew Clark see's him finish top 🔝
For the final scores follow the link here 👉 https://t.co/zDAx9eZEVG pic.twitter.com/Ez1d2mphji
Clark, who has previously captained Scotland in the Men’s Home Internationals, was in blistering form during a remarkable round in which he carded nine birdies on the championship course at Nairn, including four-in-a-row on the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th holes.
He also picked up a crucial shot on the last hole to ensure he finished one stroke clear of Jack Dyer on an eight-under-par total of 134.
Today’s 62 beats the previous course record of 64 jointly held by Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup captain and former Amateur Champion, Stuart Wilson, and local member Fraser Fotheringham, who is also playing in this year’s championship.
“I’ve never qualified for the match play, but I’ve played in the championship enough times,” said Clark. “As you can see, I’m getting old enough especially when I’m against some of these younger lads. My game was trending, I think is the current word.
“I played great all day. It helped having Jamie (Mann) and Luke (Harries) alongside me also playing well. I hit a lot of good golf shots, played conservatively and avoided the bunkers, which you need to do around this golf course. I just hit it close enough to give myself a chance a few times.
“It’s a nice place to get a course record but I think you’d give that and the 62 up to hold the trophy on Saturday. That’s what we’ve all come here for and they’ll all be gunning for the guy who did something good today. There’s a long way to go and there’s a lot of talented players here so let’s see how it goes.
“I’ve played in the Men’s Home Internationals for Scotland and my record is reasonably good in match play. I’ve been a top points scorer, so I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done well against some of the younger guys coming through so yes, you fancy it in match play.”
Dyer comes close
Dyer, who played for Great Britain and Ireland under Wilson in the Walker Cup last month, carded a four-under-par round of 67 that included five birdies to follow up yesterday’s round of 68 on the Moray links. The Englishman picked up shots on the 7th, 9th, 10th, 15thand 17th holes, with the only blemish being a bogey on the par four 16th, to finish in second place on a seven-under-par total of 135.
George Harper Jnr caught up with @walkercup player @jackdyer_ after he secured a spot in the knockout stage of #TheAmateur ⛳️— The R&A (@RandA) June 15, 2021
Watch the interview here 👉 https://t.co/JBitDCTX14 pic.twitter.com/3V1zT4VTE3
“Today I stayed quite patient as I had a nice little round yesterday which put me in a position where I could play more conservatively. I actually hit it closer on the few first holes than on the back nine where I made most of the birdie putts that dropped in. I holed a couple of nice putts coming in there. I knew I didn’t have to do anything silly today, just a nice solid round and that’s what it was.
“It’s the first time I’ve played Nairn. I came up here on Friday after playing in the St Andrews Links Trophy. It’s a really good test of golf, obviously when that wind gets up, it’s just a different beast. It’s a good course and a fair test so I’m sure the lads are enjoying it as well.”
Three shots further back on a four-under-par total of 138 are Gregor Tait and Luke O’Neill. Tait, who plays out of Aldeburgh, also posted a round of 67 that included six birdies to join the Irishman on the same mark. O’Neill shot a three-under-par 68 in today’s second round of qualifying.
“Yesterday was really tough but turning up today with less wind, I knew the scoring was going to be slightly better,” said Tait. “My ball striking today was much better whereas the first round was more a battle against the elements.
“I was pleased with today’s performance. I made a really good up-and-down on 12 to keep my round going and it was really solid. I hit a lot of good shots and the greens are so good that you can get the ball rolling nicely. The front nine wasn’t as difficult as yesterday so it made things a lot easier and you can put some wedges in your hand.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they set up for match play and I think the matches will be won and lost on the greens. I enjoy the pressure of match play and I’m excited for it starting.”
O’Neill, said, “I’m pretty happy with my performance so far. I played here in the Boys’ Amateur a few years ago so I feel pretty comfortable around the course and was solid that week. I played fairly safely today, a lot of irons off the tee. It was nice playing with Calum (Scott), seeing the fans and getting a clap. They were a bit tough on me at times [laughing], but no, it was nice to play in front of a crowd.”
Local lad shines
Nairn local Calum Scott had delighted the home contingent following his progress when he led stroke play qualifying overnight with a bogey-free round of 67 that included four birdies.
The 17-year-old, whose brother Sandy played in the Walker Cup two years ago, played steady golf in today’s second round, with a double-bogey six on the 12th and bogeys at the 4th and 14th holes undoing the good work he had made in securing birdies on the 1st, 10th and 18th. His one-over-par 72 meant the Scot finished on three-under-par 139.
“I really enjoyed it, was nice to get a birdie on the first and have everyone clapping which gave me a bit of a boost,” said Scott. “I made a few mistakes in the middle of the round on 12, 13 and 14 but then a solid finish and one under for the remaining holes.
“I would have liked to have finished first but I’ll take the top five. If you’d said that to me before, I would have been happy. I’ve played a bit of match play here so I think I’ve got a bit of an advantage with this being my home club. I know when to be aggressive and when to hold back, or where to leave it above or below the hole. I’m looking forward to it.”
Match play qualifiers
The cut mark fell at six-over-par, with the top 64 players qualifying for the match play stage. Ties for 64th place were decided on a card countback.
With the match play stage starting from tomorrow through to Saturday's 36-hole final, there is much at stake as the winner gains an exemption into The 149th Open at Royal St George’s and, by tradition, an invitation to play in the Masters Tournament and an exemption into the US Open.
The 36 hole final round will be live broadcast on The R&A’s YouTube and Facebook accounts as well as on randa.org
Live scoring, news and video can be followed on The R&A’s website and social media platforms.