Syme sets his sights on silver medal

Connor Syme, his dad Stuart and caddie Tim Poyser at the 18th green after finishing his practice round.   Picture Ian Rutherford.
Connor Syme, his dad Stuart and caddie Tim Poyser at the 18th green after finishing his practice round. Picture Ian Rutherford.
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It’s a moment most of us can only dream of, marching up to the first tee in a Major golf championship ready to compete with the best.

For Drumoig amateur Connor Syme that dream became a reality on Thursday morning when, at 11:47am, he hit his first drive at Royal Birkdale and registered his involvement in the 146th Open Championship.

North east Fife has a long, famous history with the competition, but Syme’s involvement as a player representing the area has been a long time coming.

We’ve never had anyone rubbing shoulders with the likes of Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth, but the number seven ranked amateur in the world has broken that glass ceiling.

Typically, the composed 22-year-old is taking things in his stride, guided by his coach and dad Stuart.

He admits to being nervous, but that’s simply borne out of the excitement at being part of an event he’s watched from outside the ropes since the event stopped off at Troon 13 years ago.

“2004 was my first Open with my dad,” he said.

“My family has a long history with the event and my grandad caddied for Philip Parkin when he played in St Andrews.”

Preparations for the tournament went well, with Syme arriving at Royal Birkdale straight from an appearance at the Men’s European Amateur Team Championships in Austria where Scotland were knocked out in the quarter final stages by Sweden.

As soon as that event finished, attention shifted to the Open, where the amateur spent his practice days getting to know the course inside out.

Although under no illusion about the size of the task ahead, Syme is quietly confident that he has the game to make an impression on the course.

“My driving is my strongest point and this is going to be an event where accuracy is important,” he said.

“It’s obviously a challenging course and they’ve already changed a couple of the par five holes to par fours but that’s something which is fine by me.

“It’s a course where everything is open out in front of you and you can get a clear sight of where the trouble is.”

Syme’s making what he hopes will be the first of many Major appearances this week.

But he’s been paired up in an opening group with a guy who has been there, done that.

One of the most famous names in the sport, ‘Wild Thing’ John Daly is a two time Major winner, known for his flamboyance both on and off the course.

Again, it’s all part of the Open package Syme can’t wait to experience.

“He’s a great golfer and will carry a lot of support with him, so I’m looking forward to that,” he said.

“I’m quite nervous about it all because it’s going to be a new experience for me, but it’s more of a nervous excitement and just wanting to get going.”

Syme has made inroads into the pro-game already, competing at the Australian Open and Joburg Open.

Playing at those events has given him the experience of playing front of large crowds, but there’s little doubt this is on another level.

Although aiming to compete as hard as he can in the competition, the most realistic aim for Syme is bringing home the Silver Medal, presented to the leading amateur after the event, providing they complete all 72 holes.

Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Chris Wood are previous winners of the prestigious medal.

Fellow amateurs Harry Ellis, Maverick McNealy, Luca Chianchetti and Alfie Plant will battle it out with the Drumoig ace for the honour, with McNealy the bookies favourite, closely followed by the Drumoig golfer.

“I want to win the silver medal,” he said.

“That’s my target and anything else will be a bonus.

“Going to the Open and playing the four rounds would be something that I’d be really happy with.”