Student Series

St Andrews tests Europe’s best student golfers

The R&A
01 Apr 24
3 mins
Beware the injured golfer is a common phrase in the royal & ancient game. That maxim was very much in play over a blowy opening round of The R&A Student Tour Series – Final at St Andrews. Especially for Europe’s leading men. There are no physical ailments in the women’s draw, where Maynooth University student Kate Lanigan, Halmstad player Elice Fredriksson and Lorna McClymont of the University of Stirling are in contention to win the 2023/24 order of merit. McClymont and St Andrews student Lucy Jameson hold the first round lead after matching one-over-par 75s. Lanigan is one shot behind. However, they are fully fit. The same can’t be said for the men.

Tight at the top

Maynooth University student Ryan Griffin and Will Coxon of the University of Stirling, currently first and second on the order of merit, should have been resting rather than taking on the Jubilee Course in 30 mph winds gusting to 40mph. That’s how much winning the order of merit means to Europe’s best student golfers.  Just seven points separate Griffin and Coxon. Griffin, who topped the table last season, has 275 points to Coxon’s 268. University of Exeter player Ignacio Mateo Fraga has 263, Halmstad University’s Hugo Stark is on 250 and Stirling player Ben Brookes has 228. They are the likely lads to top the table when the third and final round is played over the Old Course. With 180 points for this week’s winner, and 150 for second place, much can change at the top of the table.

Knee and back problems

Coxon is suffering from a bad right knee he injured playing at Moray Golf Club last week. Griffin aggravated his back in the gym before departing for St Andrews. Coxon, who is defending his title, won the battle of the injured in round one. He played the Jubilee with a pronounced limp, but returned a one-over-par 73 to top the leaderboard. He is two shots in front of Griffin, Halmstad student Hugo Stark and Dan Nicholls of Loughborough University.  “I’m not sure what’s wrong with the knee,” said Coxon, who was having a video conversation with a University of Stirling physio after his round. “It’s maybe my meniscus. It’s just stiff. It doesn’t hurt, but it means my other leg has to compensate for it, which gets quite tiring. I can’t go hard at the ball, and that seemed to help in keeping the ball down in the wind.” Coxon’s only major error was a triple-bogey seven at the par-4, 10th hole, but he bounced back with three birdies in his next four holes. 

Battling through

“If I wasn’t in contention for the order of merit then I would have considered not playing to rest the knee. I’ve been applying ice, deep heat, taking paracetamol and keeping it elevated when I’m resting. “The plan is to play the next two rounds and see how it goes. Hopefully I can battle through.” Griffin was two-under through 11 holes before finishing the last six holes in five-over. “I wasn’t feeling my best going out, but if you had offered me three-over I’d have taken it,” Griffin said. “I was feeling a bit of pressure about the order of merit, but the situation with my back has taken my mind off it, which is a maybe a silver lining.”
Will Coxon currently tops the leaderboard in St Andrews.

Local knowledge

Jameson is seeking her third STS win and is playing a home gig. “Knowing the course and knowing where you want to put the ball helps a lot,” the St Andrews student said. “I just tried to hit greens and I only missed one. I did well controlling my ball flight in the wind.” McClymont got into position to defend her title with birdies over the last three holes. She’s back to her best after winning the STS-France last month.

Brutal wind

“Today was the hardest conditions I’ve played at St Andrews,” said McClymont, who is playing her final STS event before graduation. “The wind was brutal, and it’s not the easiest course either. “I feel comfortable in these conditions because I know everyone else is struggling. You have to just respect the course and the wind.” McClymont has won the order of merit the last two seasons. She currently sits in third place on 210 points, with Elice Fredriksson of Halmstad on 290 and Lanigan on 315. Fredriksson didn’t help her chances of topping the table with an opening eight-over-par 82 for sixth place.  Lanigan is in good position for the order of merit title. “I’m obviously aware of where I stand, but that’s not the focus” said the Irish internationalist, who won in Italy last year. “As far as I’m concerned, I have to have a good week regardless. Good golf takes care of everything.” It's all set up for an exciting finale over the world’s most iconic course, for women and men.