Course record equalised by 21-year-old golfer Niels

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A 21-year-old golfer, competing in his first Machrihanish Golf Club Gents’ Championship, equalled the course record which has stood for ‘a vast number of years’.

A total of 79 players started the 143rd Gents’ Championship last Saturday, June 1, with the second leg of the four-round competition played on Sunday.

Defending champion Greg Watson pulled out of his title defence owing to injury and it was widely regarded that the competition this year would be fierce with multiple winners, including Stuart Campbell and George MacMillan, in the field alongside more recent victors Oliver Armour and Revie Thomson.

However, it was 21-year-old Niels Andersen who well and truly grabbed the headlines after the first round. Niels resides in California where he plays golf on the college circuit but he was raised in Campbeltown where his mum still works in the local hospital.

He has been a member of Machrihanish Golf Club for 17 years since the age of four. Always a very promising junior, Niels announced his arrival in style at the championship on Saturday.

His round began rather innocuously with a bogey five at the world-famous first hole. However, he followed that bogey by birdieing the second, third and fourth holes to take him to two-under-par through four.

Another birdie on the eighth took him out in 32 shots, three under par. Turning for home, his round really caught fire with a fantastic eagle three at the par-five 10th.

He then birdied the 11th and 12th to take his score to seven under par after 12 holes.

The course record at Machrihanish is held jointly by George MacMillan and Stuart Campbell at seven-under-par 63s and Niels had the record firmly in his focus as he came down the home stretch.

The disappointment of a bogey five at the tough par-four 14th was soon extinguished with a birdie two at the short 15th as Niels continued to blaze a trail over the magnificent Old Tom Morris-designed links.

His sizzling round continued with assured pars at the 16th, 17th and 18th holes to finish with a course record equaling seven-under-par 63.

A club spokesperson said: ‘This is an incredible achievement by the young golfer, whose record will take pride of place on the wall beside the cards of great champions, Stuart Campbell and George MacMillan, in the new clubhouse once it is ready.’

George started his round early on Saturday and was the leader in the pro-shop after his own fantastic round of two-under-par 68. The round looked good enough to lead until Niels’s 63 came in later. Six times champion George had no fewer than seven birdies of his own to get off to a terrific start.

In third place after round one was 16-time champion Stuart who had a good day with an excellent two-over-par 72 gross leading a clutch of players who had 73s and 74s as the low scores came rolling in with the beautiful Machrihanish sunshine.

The second day started wet and windy and, while the rain dried up, conditions were much trickier and this was reflected in the scoring as the famous old links really bit the players back.

Best gross on day two was shared by Matthew MacAulay and round one leader, Niels, who both had seven-over-par 77s.

George hit the ball extremely well in the conditions but fell one shot further behind Niels after his eight-over-par 78. Stuart lost a little more ground after a nine-over-par 79 on the tough second day.

The third and fourth rounds of the championship are next weekend on Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9.

Niels holds a six-shot lead over George and is 11 ahead of Stuart in third place.

The spokesperson added:’The three will play together in the top group and it will be intriguing to see how the youngster copes with having two club legends chasing him down in the final two rounds.’

Donald Laing, home from France for the championship, won the Jim Scally Trophy for the two best handicap rounds over the first two days with 74-8-66 in round one followed by 78-8-70 for an excellent combined total of 136.