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Battle Trophy

by Bernie McGuire, Crail

Walker Cup star Grant Forrest was delighted to finally end a near two year winless drought in capturing the prestigious Battle Trophy at Crail Golfing Society.

The 22-year old Craigielaw golfer defeated Dubai-based Scot Euan McIntosh with a birdie at the first extra hole to win for a first time since success in the 2014 St. Andrews Links trophy at nearby St. Andrews.

Both players ended the 72-holes of regulation play tied at three over par with Forrest posting a closing 74 and the 47-year old McIntosh a 75 on the Gil Hanse designed Craighead Links course.

Forrest, also past Scottish Amateur and Scottish Boys champion, went into the last round trailing two behind the lead of Drumoig’s Connor Syme.

Forrest kick-started his challenge with a second hole birdie but dropped shots at six and seven before a second birdie of his round at the par five eighth hole.

He birdied the short par four 10th for a first time but bogeyed the par three 13th and par four 14th holes ahead of also the last for his 74.

McIntosh, who has been based at the Els Club in Dubai for the past eight months, pared his opening four holes before a bogey at the fifth and then bogeyed the ninth.

The former Scottish Assistant champion then dropped a third shot at the 11th  before a first birdie of his round at the par three, 13th hole. 

But McIntosh proceeded to drop shots at 14 and 15 ahead of a birdie at the par four 16th and only to give a shot back at the next ahead of signing for his three over par 75.

The play-off began poorly for McIntosh who made a mess of his 3-wood tee shot that failed to find the fairway at the short 299-yard par four, 10th.

In contrast Forrest’s tee shot just rolled off the back of the green.

McIntosh did find the green with his second but with Forrest, who had finished a shock runner-up in last year's British Amateur at Carnoustie, showing his short game skills in chipping to just three feet.

McIntosh putted to around four feet but then missed his par putt leaving Forrest to putt out for birdie and a first victory since winning at St. Andrews.

“It’s great to again win an individual trophy as it’s been a long time since my St. Andrews Links trophy win,” he said.

“I struggled with my game last year and it’s just good to get back on track with a victory.

“All round my game was good and I kept it tidy, and really I only had one or two poor tee shots so keeping it in play was the key.

“And the conditions here this week at Crail were certainly a lot tougher than when I won in St. Andrews as it was so windy out there.

“Also I do feel sorry for Euan as no-one wants to see what happened to him with his tee shot in the play-off.

“I was nervous and he was nervous but in the bigger picture I am delighted to have my name on what is clearly a stunning trophy.”

And Forrest heads into his next event, the 29th April starting Lytham Trophy buoyed having been a member last year of the victorious GB & I Walker Cup team that competed at the Royal Lytham and St. Annes course.

McIntosh, who was born in Edinburgh, intends spending some time in Scotland before returning to Dubai.

“This is a young man’s game as after playing four rounds in two days, and then an extra hole, I am exhausted,” he said.

“I am also used to playing in 32 degree Celsius weather with no wind, as it was so tough out there over the weekend.

“And I just don’t know what happened to my tee shot in the play-off as I tried to cut a 3-wood and just lost it.

“But fair play to Grant as he clearly played very steady over the four rounds.”

Syme, who led for the opening three rounds as he had down 12 months ago, collapsed under an 84 to finish in a share of ninth place.

And Liam Johnston was celebrating when he pulled out a 3-wood and then aced the par four 10th hole earlier in the round.

It was the fifth ace but the first in competition for the Dumfries County Golf Club golfer.

“All my hole-in-one’s have been in bounce games so it was nice to finally get one in competition,” he said.

“And it’s a first at the par four so it was just cool to see the ball disappear into the bottom of the cup.”