SCOTLAND’S Connor McKinney lead the qualifiers into the matchplay stage of the 93rd R&A Boys’ Amateur Championship, at North Devon’s Saunton Golf Club.
Playing in challenging conditions, McKinney posted an even-par round of 71 on the West Course to finish on five-under par after two rounds.
McKinney was a shot clear of Frenchman Martin Couvra and Welshman Archie Davies as a total of 18 English players made it through to the knockout, including Hallamshire’s Daily Telegraph Junior Champion Barclay Brown, Heysham’s John Wilding and Northamptonshire County’s latest England prospect Joe Quinn, plus three other Scots.
Experiencing a mixed day on course, McKinney’s round was almost derailed by a double bogey seven on the par-five 10th hole after he hit his drive out of bounds.
However, he held his composure to record four birdies and a bogey on his way into the clubhouse as the leading qualifier.
McKinney said: “It was really windy so that was always going to be a factor. When the rain came it made it really tricky, but I handled my game pretty well and stuck to my plan.
“I stayed committed after a bad start to the back-9, it can really get away from you in that wind.
‘I hit my driver out of bounds on 10 and made double – but I made four birdies in my next six holes, so I really bounced back.
“It gives me an extra bit of confidence going into the matchplay, I know that I have already beaten everyone in the field so I know that I can do it in the match play.”
Finishing as the leading qualifier has filled McKinney with confidence heading into the matchplay, a format in which he is showing form.
He won four-and-a-half out of six matches for Scotland at last week’s &A Boys’ Home Internationals which England won for a fourth year in a row..
Couvra recorded his second 69 in as many days thanks to a birdie on the 18th hole of Saunton’s East Course.
At 16 years of age Couvra was pleased to go through to the matchplay in his Boys’ Amateur Championship debut.
Couvra said: “This is my first time in this championship. I played very well this week. The rain and the wind was really hard but I still played well.
“I am happy but the matchplay will be a new competition. I will just try and play the same as I have been.
Playing the West Course early on Wednesday, Davies recorded an impressive 67, the lowest round of the day.
It featured five birdies and a lone bogey. The Cumbrian-based Welshman will be one to watch in the knockout having recently won the Welsh Amateur Championship, when he defeated Connor Jones 8&7.
A delighted Davies, who plays his golf at Carlisle GC, said: “I started off while the weather was awful, rain and windy, but I held onto a score early on and pushed on towards the end.
“So I am really pleased with the overall performance.
“I hit the ball better yesterday to be honest but today, around the greens, I was a lot better, a lot sharper and I made some good up and downs quite early on which kept the momentum going.
“I feel like my game has come together pretty well for this championship. I won the Welsh Amateur a couple of weeks ago. I won five matches in that so hopefully I can keep it going again this week.”
Overnight leader Tom Gueant, from France, was bogey-free for his first 29 holes before a triple bogey seven on the 12th hole on the East, saw him slip down the leaderboard.
Guean recorded a bogey on the par-five 15th followed quickly by a double bogey six on the 16th to record a five-over 76.
However, Guean will head into last 64 having qualified tied fourth on three-under alongside another Scot, Cameron Adam, and Sussex’s Habebul Islam, after they recorded even-par second rounds on the East and West Courses respectively.
Also comfortably making the matchplay stage is England’s Florida-based junior international Joseph Pagdin, who is the highest-ranked player in the field.
Pagdin, another member of the Home Internationals-winning team, recorded rounds of 70 and 70 to be two-under-par and tied seventh.
He is joined on the same score by Czech Vaclav Tichy, Norway’s Alexander Settemsdal, Kevin Christopher Jegers, from Estonia, and Spaniard Rodrigo Martin.
The cut fell on four-over with 74 players progressing to the matchplay. Twenty – including four English teenagers and one Scot – will play in Thursday’s preliminary round with the second round commencing later in the morning.
Each match will consist of one round of 18 holes on the East Course before concluding with a 36-hole final, on Sunday.
For the full matchplay draw and scoring visit here. Admission and parking at Saunton are free.