Young Scots swap putting games in Dumfries for the European Tour


Liam Johnston and Connor Syme are competing at the European Tour event in Austria

A decade ago they were trying to out-do each other on the putting green at Dumfries & County Golf Club.

This week, Connor Syme and Liam Johnston are competing in the same European Tour event in Austria.

“If you’re being realistic, the chances of this were pretty slim, but we’ve both worked incredibly hard at it, so why not?” Johnston told BBC Scotland.

“I’ve known Connor since he was 12 or 13. We used to always play putting competitions at the club – and even some of them I can remember exactly how they finished.

“If you lost the putting competition, you had to go to the furthest pin on the course then bring it back. Then the loser of the next one had to take it back out.

“So you knew they had gone far enough to go and get it.

“That happened to Connor more, obviously.”

‘Win in Spain changed my year’

The entertaining way Johnston relays that story – in the company of a beaming Syme – indicates the great relationship the pair have but also that they simply just love their golf.

Syme, 22, is midway through his debut season on the European Tour.

Connor Syme is currently 206th in the Race to Dubai rankings but aims to break into the top 110

Johnston, 25, has a win under his belt on the Challenge Tour, something that might help him make the step up for the 2019 season.

“To see a long-time friend get his card first year out, straight out the blocks, is a huge inspiration to try and get myself there as well,” said Johnston, whose younger brother, Ryan, is his caddie at the Shot Clock Masters this week at Diamond Country Club, near Atzenbrugg.

“My win in Spain changed my year completely, has given me a massive boost and totally changed my schedule for the rest of the year.”

‘We want to be back here next year’

Syme was born in Kirkcaldy but lived in the Dumfries area from the age of two until his late teens because of his dad Stuart’s job as the professional at Dumfries & County, a role now occupied by James Erskine.

Now based at Drumoig Golf Centre in Fife with his Dad as his coach, Syme’s maiden year on the European Tour has been an enjoyable one but has not been without its challenges, as he seeks to acclimatise at a level he admirably reached ahead of schedule.

In the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings, Syme is currently 206th and, over the summer, will seek to get inside the top 110 to be assured of keeping his card for 2019.

Johnston is 11th in the Challenge Tour’s Race to Oman rankings and, if he stays in the top 15, will win a European Tour card for 2019.

“If Liam and I are both on the European Tour next year then we’re both doing something right,” Syme told BBC Scotland.

“It would be awesome if we could both be back pegging it up next year.

“It’s class to be out here playing together in a European Tour event, something we’ve both been striving to do since we were much younger.

“We’re always messaging each other and keeping an eye on each other’s results.”

In an attempt to speed up the game, there is a 40-second limit to play each stroke at the Shot Clock Masters in Austria, but at least there’s no requirement to run to the furthest pin as punishment for a bad putt.

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