Peebles golfer Darren Howie came oh so close to a place in the Scottish Amateur Championship final last weekend after a superb run in the country’s flagship amateur event at Crail.
Scotland’s 256 leading amateur golfers gathered in the East Neuk to contest a trophy previously won by the likes of Colin Montgomerie and the nation’s newest golfing sensation Bob McIntyre, with Howie going into the tournament in fine form after a runner-up finish in the North of Scotland Championship at Nairn Dunbar the previous week.
That form continued in the stroke play qualifying as the Peebles youngster opened up with a sensational 7-under par 62 over the Balcomie Links, followed by a 68 on the Craighead Links leaving him in share of second place on 11-under par.
With the leading 64 qualifiers reaching the match play stages, Howie was third seed and he backed up his ranking with a first round win over one of the country’s leading junior players, Aiden O’Hagen by a narrow one-hole margin. A comfortable second round victory followed, and he had to dig deep in the third round with another final hole victory, this time against Lewis Dobelaar. Aiming to become the second Peebles in two years to reach the semis after Stephen Roger’s fine run last year, Darren’s next opponent was fellow Scotland international John Paterson from St Andrews and he staged a superb fightback to earn his semi-final spot, coming from two holes behind with eight to play to seal the match with a half on the final green.
The last Peebles golfer to reach the final was Allan Turnbull in 1996 but with Darren facing the host club’s George Burns, it was always going to be a tough task. Early chances came and went and Burns edged into the lead with a birdie on the 3rd before going three up at the turn. Despite three Howie birdies on the back nine, he couldn’t close the back and Burns clinched a 3&2 win on the 16th green.
A bronze medal was Darren’s consolation and his excellent run sees him leap into second place in the Scottish Golf Men’s Order of Merit, with Home Internationals selection hopefully just around the corner.