Scott Gregory will bid to become only the second player to win the British and English Amateur titles in the same season when he tees off at Ganton today.
Scott Gregory will be on the history trail again this week as he bids to become just the second player ever to land the British and English Amateur titles in the same season.
Amateur legend Sir Michael Bonallack is the only player to have ever done the double, since the English Amateur came in to being in 1925 – some 40 years after the British became the first world’s first amateur championship.
Gregory, the Corhampton ace, who made his debut for Great Britain and Ireland in the draw against Continental Europe at Prince’s last week, would love to get his hands on the English Amateur crown, at Ganton, in North Yorkshire, having lost in the final at Saunton, in North Devon, just two years ago.
Making the 2014 final heralded Gregory’s arrival on the national stage in the year he only cemented his place in the Hampshire team.
Scott was one of two Hampshire players to make the last eight at Saunton – Hayling’s Jamie Mist lost to Surrey’s Oscar Granstrom-Livesey, while Gregory marched on through the semis before eventually losing the 36-hole final against Yorkshire’s Nick Marsh.
Ellis made his own piece of history by becoming the youngest-ever winner of the English Amateur after his triumph at Silloth-on-Solway in 2012 – the 16-year-old breaking Nick Faldo’s record set as an 18-year-old back in 1975 when he won at Royal Lytham, just three years after taking up the game.
Both Hampshire aces started at a much earlier age – Ellis played in the US Kids World Championships in America when he was 11 – and are making the kind of waves Justin Rose made as an amateur, famously topped off by that appearance in The Open as 17-year-old.
Gregory briefly led The Open on the first day at Royal Troon just over a week ago, and had to quickly motor from Scotland to Sandwich, in Kent, to take part in the two practice days with his Great Britain and Ireland team-mates before the St Andrews Trophy clash with Europe at Prince’s, which hosted The Open back in 1932.
He showed no signs of any deflation after missing the cut at Troon after a couple of roller-coaster days which saw him get to four-under par after 10 holes, then take ??on the back nine after getting put on the clock.
And although his target of making the cut proved too much of a tall order as the weather made scoring harder on the Friday at Troon, three wins out of four in his two foursomes and two singles matches at Prince’s.
That matched his record on his England debut against France, at Formby, in May and suggests Scott is in the mood to make it through Monday and Tuesday’s strokeplay qualifying at Ganton, with the top 64 going into the matchplay culminating in Saturday’s final.
Ganton – like Royal Porthcawl, the classic South Wales links which hosted the British Amateur in June – is a classic inland course, which has the rare distinction of having hosted the Walker Cup (2003), the Ryder Cup (1949) and the Curtis Cup – the ladies equivalent of the Walker Cup in 2000.
Designed by Harry Colt and his assistant Alistair McKenzie, who would go on to help Bobby Jones create Augusta’s fabled holes which Gregory is set to sample with his expected invite to the 2017 Masters, Scott is of the belief that he plays his best golf on tougher, traditional tracks.
But Ellis will be determined to steal some of Gregory’s glory, having dragged Hampshire over the line to reach the English County Finals, in September, with a stunning display in the South East Qualifier at Calcot Park, two weeks ago.
Also in the field in North Yorkshire – Ganton will share the qualifying rounds with Scarborough’s South Cliff course - are another seven Hampshire players – led by Rowlands Castle’s Billy McKenzie, fresh from his victory in the Tillman Trophy at East Sussex National 10 days ago.
Hayling’s Jamie Mist, who reached the last eight at Saunton, in 2014, will be looking for another big performance before heading back to the States for the final year of his golf scholarship at Jacksonville State University.
Meon Valley’s George Saunders, who finished tied 25th in the Carris Trophy, at Hunstanton, last week, is also making his English Amateur debut this week, along with Corhampton’s Adam Reid, who lost in the 2014 final of the Hampshire Amateur Championship, to Brokenhurst Manor’s Martin Young.
The current county champion would love to add the English Amateur to his Logan Trophy won at the 2006 English Mid-Amateur to his illustrious golfing CV, and at 46, will claim to be the oldest player in the 288-strong field.
Young reached the quarter-finals at Frilford Heath, in Oxfordshire, in 2013.