SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD Ross Munro has staked a claim to be the youngest golfer to win the Reay senior championship in the 119 year history of the club.
It was beyond the wildest dreams of the seven-handicapper to win the title as a junior. But as he worked through the stroke-play rounds, confidence grew with each victory and he found himself in the match-play stages at the quarter-final stage.
"Although I decided just to focus on one match at a time, I was quite determined going into the event," said Ross. "When I got to the final, I really wanted to go one final push because I thought I might become the youngest if I did win it."
And win he did, overcoming the experienced and consistent Lee Parnell three and one in the showdown.
Ross said: "Lee has won the title a few times so he is a pretty good player and one of the most consistent the club.
"He is a competitive guy who wants to win but I think at the same time he was quite pleased for me and he took it quite well."
Ross was introduced to golf by Reay Golf Club’s volunteer Evan Sutherland who has been taking the national junior programme, ClubGolf, into local schools for eight years.
A Primary 7 pupil at the time, Ross quickly found his feet and enlisted for Friday night sessions, along with his younger brothers Gregor and Euan.
"As soon as we went to the club, we have had the golfing bug ever since and have played non-stop," said Ross.
"From that first Friday night, we enjoyed the coaching and once we got used to playing three holes, we moved up to six, then nine, which eventually led up to playing in 18-hole competitions.
"Evan is the only coach I have really ever had and his coaching has made a huge difference. My swing is probably the best part of my game and that’s down to him."
Evan’s group includes six juniors with either single or low teen handicaps. One of them is 17-year-old Eleanor Tunn – also from a non-golfing family – who last summer set a new course record at Reay, beating the long-standing ladies score of 71 by two shots.
A healthy rivalry exists between the juniors, and in particular the brothers. One disadvantage of being the eldest is that when Gregor and Euan, 14 and 12 at the time, together with fellow club juniors, Tom Ross (14) and James Hawes (13) were invited to join the Scottish Golf Union’s north district squad last autumn, Ross was already too old for consideration.
Ross has only been playing in competitions seriously for three years but has made big improvements this summer and following the club’s championship, his confidence is brimming.
Having put Highers behind him in May and gained a conditional place at Dundee University to study dentistry, he could have his best opportunity yet to realise his golfing ambitions.
"My handicap is seven at the moment I’m hoping to get that to below three by the end of the season," he said. "And since I finished my exams, I’ve been concentrating on golf and I have been playing every day.
"Getting into the university team will give me more free coaching and you get competitive games each week which keeps your game sharp. And hopefully if I make the uni team and do well, I might get a chance to get into the Scottish team."
The Reay trophy sits proudly on the family mantelpiece and sitting in full sight of the family is already having an interesting effect in bringing out the competitive instincts of Gregor and Euan.
"I’ve got a nice cup which is sitting at home on the mantelpiece," added Ross. "There are other good juniors between us but Gregor has already said he wants to jump in and get the trophy."
It’s been seven years since the previous junior winner’s name, Gavin Sutherland, was engraved on the silverware. And some 30 years before that Raymond Taylor, 17 at the time, is on it as the champion. It might be a far shorter gap before the next junior name appears.