Whiteford steals the show on his return to the big time

Kirkcaldy's Peter Whiteford was the man the media wanted to speak with after his opening -5 at the Scottish Open.
Kirkcaldy's Peter Whiteford was the man the media wanted to speak with after his opening -5 at the Scottish Open.

Peter Whiteford has barely hit a golf ball in anger over the past year, let alone competitively and further still in one of the world's top competitions.

But the Kirkcaldy former European Tour pro, who held a card for five seasons, broke out of the wilderness with a stunning -5 opening 18 holes at the Aberdeen Standards Investments Scottish Open on Thursday.

Whiteford has had to completely scale back his participation in the sport over the past few years after developing arthritis in his hips.

He can be more commonly seen now handing out scorecards in the club shop at Linlithgow Golf Club, where he is assistant PGA professional, rather than filling them in himself.

After developing the problems with his hips, Whiteford chose to think about his future, and that of his young family's, over life on tour.

But the fire clearly still burns inside him, and after winning a place at Gullane through a Scottish Open qualifying event at Longniddry, the Kirkcaldy golfer reminded everyone why once shared the lead heading into the final round of his home Open.

Seven birdies, five on the front 9, and just two bogeys, on holes 3 and 4, left him just a shot behind the leaders when he came off the 18th after round one.

Whiteford said: "As much as I really enjoy working at Linlithgow Golf Club, any professional athlete who stops misses the buzz and the adrenaline.

"That's what I've found hard to deal with since I've finished playing, but I loved it out there today.

"Last year I felt (his hip problems) were too much and I've never felt I was good enough to do little practice and play less events.

"That's for better players than myself, so that's the reason I chapped it on the head.

"But if this week goes well - you never know.

"I'd love to be back out here playing."

There is a route back into the game for Whiteford, but he would have to go through the same procedure tennis star Andy Murray did to get back full-time.

But it's costly, and Whiteford admits he'd have to weigh up the risks before even contemplating going under the knife.

"There's no guarantee I'd get back on tour," he said.

"I don't want to do it to just get back on the Challenge Tour.

"I have a family and a wee kid."

Coming into his home Open completely under the radar, Whiteford admits he felt a different kind of pressure as he impressed over Gullane.

"It's not like I'm out there grafting hard for my card," he said.

"It's different.

"The lifestyle of a golfer is a lot different to bog-standard life.

"It's a great life and hard at times.

"I've seen the good times and the bad.

"A few members from Linlithgow were out there supporting me - I'm normally chasing them up for their sweep and two's money!

"It was phenomenal - I loved it."

Drumoig's Connor Syme was also in action during the first day of competition.

The 23-year-old has some ground to make up when he tees off early on Friday morning, signing for a +1 71.

Jamie McLeary, born in Peterhead but who moved to the Kingdom when he was a youngster and learned the game in Leven, came through the same qualifier as Whiteford.

He carded a decent -2 for his opening 18 holes.