The Masters: Laird Shepherd

DREAM OF A LIFETIME: British Amateur champion Laird Shepherd

Rye and St Andrew Links star to play alongside MacIntyre and Schwartzel at Augusta

THE MASTERS: Wednesday, April 6th

British Amateur champion Laird Shepherd will begin his Masters challenge tomorrow in the company of another Scottish-based player Robert MacIntyre.

The 24-year-old will also be joined on the first tee, at 11.51am (4.51pm GMT), by 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel. The University of Stirling graduate, who plans to turn pro after the US Open in June, is the only UK amateur in the field.

In more than one way, his win in the British Am at Nairn last June capped a remarkable turnaround for the Rye GC and St Andrews Links member. Since 2018 he has endured a number of injury issues and then, in last year’s final with Monty Scowsill, came back from eight down to win the biggest prize in domestic amateur golf.

“Just over a year ago I was working in a call centre in Dundee for Tesco,” the world No 49 told Sky Sports. “I’d been struggling for the last three-and-a-half or four years with injuries and hadn’t really been able to play a set schedule because of that.

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IN GOOD COMPANY: Laird Shepherd will be playing alongside 2011 champion Charl Schwartzel (back row, far right). The South African joined other former champions for the traditional Champions Dinner at Augusta this week

“I was starting to think about doing other things to be honest, so in terms of Covid it almost hit at the right time because it gave me a bit of time to reassess what I needed to do to get healthy and get playing and I was able to keep that going and obviously play some golf and play some decent golf.”

Since that victory ten months ago Shepherd, who is one of 91 players in the field, has struggled to rediscover that kind of form. In last month’s Spanish Amateur, won by England international John Gough, he finished 86th in strokeplay qualifying but tomorrow realises every golfer’s dream when he hits his opening tee shot.