Graham Gordon (pictured) set the seal on what he described as his 'best ever season' by capturing the Scottish Golf Union's order of merit for the first time.
The 22-year-old from Newmachar, who is set to join the professional ranks over the winter, finished the year with a total of 600 points, over 125 ahead of nearest challenger Barry Hume.
For Gordon, it was the perfect end to a productive and highly consistent season that was illuminated by victories in both the West of Scotland Open at Dougalston and the Sutherland Chalice at Dumfries & Galloway.
An adventurous run to the semi-finals of the British Amateur championship at Porthcawl in Wales helped his order of merit cause and he cemented his place at the head of the standings with a series of high finishes including top-three berths in both the East of Scotland Open and the Cameron Corbett Vase and a fourth place finish in the Lytham Trophy.
'Winning the order of merit is a tough thing to do and I'm delighted to have won it,' the Scottish international said. 'It was my target at the start of the season. I've had a very consistent year and it's certainly been my best season. I want to build on what I've achieved this year and make my move up to the next level.'
The catalyst for Gordon's sparkling season was provided by a fourth-place finish in the first counting event of the campaign, the Craigmillar Park Open, back in April. Taking centre stage in the capital that weekend however was East Kilbride's Walker Cup star Marc Warren.
The 21-year-old traumatised the Edinburgh course with a relentless barrage of birdies as he posted a record-breaking 18-under aggregate of 262 to win the title by two shots from Ratho Park's Craig Elliot.
The following weekend, South of Scotland matchplay champion John Hempstock from Dalbeattie once again demonstrated his considerable prowess in one-on-one jousts as he surged to victory in the BP Scottish Boys' championship at a sun-drenched West Kilbride.
The 17-year-old, who would later jet out to the United States to begin a golf scholarship at the University of Minnesota, staved off a spirited challenge from Cardross Scottish boy cap Robert Taylor to win by a 2 and 1 margin in the 36-hole final.
'It's a bit of a shock to be honest,' said Hempstock at the end of a gruelling nine-round week on the Ayrshire coast. 'I really have surpassed all my expectations by winning this.'
As the season moved into May, a host of the world's leading amateurs descended on St Andrews to contest the St Andrews Links Trophy. While the field contained a posse of promising youngsters from home and abroad it was Scottish international stalwart Simon Mackenzie, who had played in every Links Trophy since its inception in 1989, who emerged victorious and proved there is no substitute for experience as he secured his first ever win at the home of golf.
The 32-year-old from West Linton harnessed the devilishly testing conditions in Fife to good effect and strung together final day rounds of 72 and 70 for a one-over aggregate of 289 and a convincing four shot victory over young whippersnappers Farren Keenan of England and Welshman Stuart Manley.
'After playing in it every year, it's nice to win the title at last,' he said after becoming the 10th Scottish winner of the trophy in 14 years.
Mackenzie would continue to mine the rich vein of form he had found with a second place finish in the Bone Steel Scottish Strokeplay championship at Southerness a few weeks later. The headlines that weekend were dominated by Barry Hume.
A week after his record-shattering 10-shot victory in the Tennant Cup, the 20-year-old Haggs Castle star etched his name into the history books again by becoming only the fifth player to hold both the Scottish matchplay and strokeplay titles at the same time.
Hume, a runner-up in the strokeplay championship two years ago, finally laid his hands on the prestigious trophy after posting a one-over total on 277 which was highlighted by a course record setting second round 64.
Hume would later go on to finish 24th in the European Tour's Scottish Open at Loch Lomond before finally putting everyone out of their misery by joining the professional ranks in August. Before his transition however he just had time to attempt to retain his Scottish Amateur crown at Western Gailes but his hopes of a double success were dashed by unknown Renfrewshire lad Greg Paxton who claimed a notable scalp in round two.
It was perhaps fitting that at the end of a week that saw the top seeds and established internationals crash and burn like a plane full of firelighters, the trophy went to the unheralded Andrew McArthur.
The 23-year-old from Windyhill arrived in Ayrshire with one objective: 'To get past the first round.' Once he had manoeuvred himself over the first hurdle, there was no stopping McArthur. He continued his march through the field and eventually claimed the title with a 2 and 1 win over Cathkin Braes' former Scottish Boys' strokeplay champion Scott Jamieson in the 36-hole final.
'It's unbelievable really,' he admitted afterwards. 'I came here looking to get past the first round but to actually win it is an experience I'll never forget.'
McArthur's reward for his victory was a call-up to the Scotland side that travelled to Wales to contest the Home Internationals at Harlech.
After international defeats at the hands of Spain and Italy prior to the event and a team lacking a number of key players, including Warren and Hume who had both turned pro, the Scots were not expected to be involved at the sharp end of affairs on the Welsh coast.
But the boys in blue proved the doubters wrong with a series of rousing performances as they narrowly failed to take the Raymond Trophy back north for the second time in three years.
A battling draw against the Irish on day one was the prelude to a quite devastating display against the Auld Enemy as Craig Watson's side demolished a beleaguered England 10-5.
Defeat in the deciding match against an inspired Welsh side, who claimed the title for the first time in the championship's history, failed to dampen the spirits of the team or stand-in manager Graham Ewart who had nothing but praise for the side.
'All week the team has fought brilliantly and the youngsters who came into this team have played superbly. They are great prospects for the future. I'm very proud of the team and they have exceeded all my expectations. The icing on the cake was beating England and beating them comprehensively. It's a great boost for the game here.'
With those sentiments, another successful year in Scottish golf was brought to a close. Roll on 2003.
The women's year
If Heather Stirling (pictured over) knew herself the whys and wherefores behind her transformation from the 'nearly' girl of Scottish female golf into the all-conquering player of the opening weeks of the 2002 season she would be able to make a fortune coaching as she pursues a new career in the professional ranks.
Not even great Scots of the immediate past achieved all the titles that the 25-year-old from Bridge of Allan grabbed in six weeks of sustained brilliance.
First the Helen Holm Scottish women's open amateur stroke-play championship at Troon, where Heather's three-round total of 10-under-par 215 in bad weather beat everybody, including English ace Rebecca Hudson out of sight.
Then the Scottish women's amateur championship at Stranraer, where Heather outclassed the field in the stroke-play qualifying and then proved that she wasn't so bad at match-play either. The figures notched up by beaten finalist Anne Laing would have been good enough to win many other years' finals.
Then the third leg of the tartan treble: the St Rule Trophy at St Andrews. Surely Rebecca Hudson, knowing this was going to be her last appearance in the tournament, would come up with something special to stop the Stirling victory march?
The answer was 'No.' Heather won with something to spare in the end, by three strokes from defending champion Alison Coffey with Lynn Kenny third a shot farther back.
Not surprisingly, Heather also won the SLGA Order of Merit award for the 12 months from mid-2001 to mid-2002 with a record total of points.
That outstanding collection of victories undoubtedly earned Heather her Curtis Cup debut against the Americans at Fox Chapel, Pittsburgh three months later.
Another Scot was in that GB&I line-up but for Vikki Laing from Musselburgh it was no big deal to be playing in the United States. She has been doing that for the best part of the last four years as a golf scholarship student at the University of California Berkeley.
Vikki, well though she played, finished on the losing side in the Curtis Cup but later that month there is every reason to believe that had she made herself available to help Scotland's cause in the women's home internationals at The Berkshire, as did San Francisco University student Susie Laing (no relation) from Troon, then Vikki would have been part of a winning team.
After going without a single match win since the internationals at Lahinch in 1997, Scotland, led by a captain who played in the last Scotland teams to win the title, in 1990 and 1991, Elaine Farquharson-Black, beat Ireland and Wales but lost narrowly to England who had earlier been knocked over by Wales. The Scots and the English finished level on points but the title stayed in the hands of England after an individual games-won countback.
One of the heroines for the Scots was Lesley Mackay (Stirling University) whose suspect left wrist meant she could not be risked in two sessions of play each day but won her three afternoon singles ties.
Scotland did not do well in the girls' home internationals in Ireland nor, it has to be said, in Moscow at the European Under-21 team championships.
But there were instances when Scottish talent did travel and prosper. There was a Welsh open triumph - a repeat of her 2001 victory - for Vikki Laing, who finished a stroke ahead of Heather Stirling with Lynn Kenny (Stirling University) joint third, and Anne Laing (Vale of Leven) will always be able to boast (although she's not that kind of girl) that her name is the very first on the new British women's mid-amateur championship trophy.
Anne was bunkered at the last at The Berkshire and had to get up and down in two if she was to score the greatest win of her career. That she did speaks volumes for her courage and nerve.
Kelly Brotherton from Tulliallan, only 16-years-old, was the surprise winner of the Scottish Under-21 stroke-play championship that had to be curtailed to 36 holes at storm-lashed Baberton. Kelly had full internationals Clare Queen (Drumpellier), Pam Feggans (Barassie) and Susie Laing behind her on the scoreboard when the third and last round was abandoned.
Laura Walker from Nairn Dunbar became the first player from north of Aberdeen to win the Scottish girls (closed) championship, beating Gemma Webster (Hilton Park) with a string of early birdies in very wet conditions.
Lynn Kenny played her part in Stirling & Clackmannan retaining the Scottish women's county championship.
On the senior (over-50s) front, Pam Williamson from Baberton had a marvellous season. She finished fifth in the Canadian seniors open before winning both the Irish and Scottish seniors titles.
Jennifer Mack's squad won the Miller Stirling Trophy as champions of the Veteran Ladies Golf Association's area tournament at Seaton Carew.
Next year, the Ladies Golf Union is introducing home internationals for the over-50s. So that's an incentive to keep the Scots who are eligible for selection practising through the winter months.
The Scottish veteran ladies' championship produced a shock winner, Rose Anderson from Huntly. She bowled over some of the players who had been members of the title-winning Scotland veterans team and ended with an emphatic win over Isobel McIntosh (Inverness) in the final.
|| 30 - DECEMBER 2002