TROON, Scotland -- Home hopes are high heading into the last eight of the British Amateur at Royal Troon. Four Great Britain & Ireland players have a chance to lift the trophy, but they face strong competition from continental Europeans.
Scotland’s Jack McDonald leads the home challenge surviving 42 holes to take his place in the quarterfinals. He is bidding to become the first Scottish winner since Stuart Wilson in 2004. The 19-year-old from nearby Kilmarnock (Barassie) needed 24 holes in the morning’s third round to see off strong American Will McCurdy. Then he went to the final hole to defeat Ireland’s Rory McNamara by one hole in Round 4.
“It was a lot of golf but I kept my concentration brilliantly all day,” said McDonald, who is studying mathematics at Stirling University. “I was down most of the way in the afternoon but managed to turn it around.”
Two down through 11 holes, McDonald squared the match at the 12th hole when McNamara drove into bushes and conceded the hole. McDonald went ahead at the 178-yard, par-3 14th hole when he hit a 7-iron to four feet and made the birdie putt. He stayed ahead with four straight halves over the last four holes, much to the delight of onlookers.
“It was great having all my family and friends supporting me out there today,” he said.
The Scot will have the same support when he takes on England’s Toby Tree. The 18-year-old from Worthing had a comprehensive victory over Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup player Rhys Pugh 7&6 in the third round before defeating Tyler Raber 2&1, the last American in the draw.
Tree is a member of the English Golf Union’s elite squad, and was expected to do well when he arrived in Troon. Earlier this year he won the Gauteng North Open in South Africa.
He got ahead of Raber early and that proved the difference. “I played the front nine really well,” Tree said. “I had three birdies and was three up after nine. The back nine was a bit scrappy but I hung on.”
There’s a lot riding on his 18-year-old shoulders. No Englishman has won the British Amateur since Gary Wolstenholme won here at Royal Troon nine years ago.
Ireland’s Alan Dunbar is carrying on the fine form that saw him win two out of three matches in last year’s Walker Cup to help GB&I defeat the United States 14-12. He is trying to become the first Irish winner since Brian McElhinney at Royal Birkdale in 2005.
“I didn’t really come here with expectations,” Dunbar said. “The goal is just to make the cut and see where you go from there.”
Dunbar goes to the last eight after defeating reigning Scottish Stroke Play champion Paul Barjon of France by two holes. He plays Sweden’s Robert Karlsson in the quarterfinals, the highest ranked player left in the draw at No. 23 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Scotland’s Paul Ferrier is also through to the last eight after defeating Italy’s Lorenzo Scotto at the 19th hole in their Round 4 match. Ferrier has just graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a degree in psychology. His university studies have helped him advance this far.
“It’s amazing how it (his psychology degree) all links to golf,” Ferrier said. “It really taught me whether it’s a 4-iron or a putt to win, it’s all the same.”
Ferrier holed a 35-foot putt on the 19th hole to defeat Scotto and now faces Australia’s Matthew Stieger. Stieger defeated countryman Daniel Nisbet 3&2 to reach the last eight.
Austria’s Matthias Schwab fought through Rounds 3 and 4 with respective wins over Slovenia’s Tim Gornik and 2009 British Boys’ champion Pedro Figueiredo. He now faces Spain’s Jacobo Pastor.
Pastor defeated Argentina’s Jorge Fernandez Valdes and Germany’s Daniel Schmieding to reach the last eight.
An Englishman, an Irishman and two Scotsmen carry the hopes of a home win for the first time since McElhinney seven years ago, with McDonald entering the penultimate day as local favorite.
Thursday morning Round of 32
Matthew Stieger, Australia, def. Emilio Cuartero, Spain, 4&2
Daniel Nisbet, Australia, def. Craig Hinton, Oxfordshire, 3&1
Lorenzo Scotto, Italy, def. Kevin Phelan, Waterford Castle, 19th Hole
Paul Ferrier, Baberton, def. Victor Henum, Denmark, 4&3
Robert Karlsson, Sweden, def. Nathan Kimsey, Woodhall Spa, 1 hole
Ricardo Melo Gouveia, Portugal, def. Juan Sarasti, Spain, 1 hole
Paul Barjon, France, def. Jack Bartlett, Worthing, 4&3
Alan Dunbar, Rathmore, def. Patrick Winther, Denmark, 7&6
Jacobo Pastor, Spain, def. Jorge Fernandez Valdes, Argentina, 19th hole
Daniel Schmieding, Germany, def. Edouard Espana, France, 2 holes
Matthias Schwab, Austria, def. Tim Gornik, Slovenia, 1 hole
Pedro Figueiredo, Portugal, def. Jordan Zunic, Australia, 3&2
Toby Tree, Worthing, def. Rhys Pugh, Vale of Glamorgan, 7&6
Tyler Raber, USA, def. Antoine Schwartz, France, 5&4
Rory McNamara, Headfort, def. Stephan Jaeger, Germany, 4&3
Jack McDonald, Kilmarnock (Barassie), def. Will McCurdy, USA, 24th hole
Thursday afternoon Round of 16
Matthew Stieger, Australia, def. Daniel Nisbet, Australia, 3&2
Paul Ferrier, Baberton, def. Lorenzo Scotto, Italy, 19th hole
Robert Karlsson, Sweden, def. Ricardo Melo Gouveia, Portugal, 1 hole
Alan Dunbar, Rathmore, def. Paul Barjon, France, 2 holes
Jacobo Pastor, Spain, def. Daniel Schmieding, 20th hole
Matthias Schwab, Austria, def. Pedro Figueiredo, Portugal, 5&4
Toby Tree, Worthing, def. Tyler Raber, USA, 2&1
Jack McDonald, Kilmarnock (Barassie), def. Rory McNamara, Headfort, 1 hole