Great Scot!

Local golfers help American team win Morcott Challenge

When Rebecca and Drew Smith first took part in the Morcott Challenge in 2014 in Dornoch, Scotland, their golf clubs did not arrive and they had to use rentals.

The Smiths’ Hilton Head Island team ended up losing a close match to their counterparts from Dornoch that year. They bounced back with a win last year at Hilton Head, South Carolina, — and then pulled out a victory with a comeback on the final day earlier this month in Scotland.

“It was fantastic,” said Drew Smith, who will be a sophomore at Columbus North. “This year, we finally got to play with our own clubs instead of rentals. It was a really great experience.”

The Smiths, who have regularly vacationed in Hilton Head, were picked for the team after Charlie Hall, who organizes the contingent from that area, saw Drew and his older sister, Caroline, hitting golf balls. Their father Jeff, a teaching pro at Otter Creek, became the team’s captain.

The Morcott Challenge features a Ryder Cup-style format. The teams play alternate shot on the first day, best ball on the second day and individual play on the third day. Each match is worth three points — one for the front nine, one for the back nine and one for the entire 18 holes.

“Even though I’ve done it before, it was still a completely new, weird feeling,” Drew Smith said. “You really have to get used to it. When you’re playing stroke play every time, if you have a bad stroke, you can make up for it on the next shot. In match play, you can have a bad shot and barely lose a hole, you’re down a hole.”

Drew Smith had to give up eight shots on handicap to his opponent each day. After losing all three points the first day, he garnered only a half-point the second day.

The Americans trailed by two points going into the final day but with Drew Smith picking up all three points in his match, they rallied to win 27½ to 20½.

“It was for sure going to be three points for the Dornoch team, but Drew had other ideas,” Jeff Smith said.

Rebecca Smith gave up seven strokes on handicap each day. She won a half-point the first day, one point the second day and 2½ on the final day.

“It’s really interesting because I’ve been in this tournament for three years,” Rebecca Smith said. “It’s really nice to be able to see all the people that I’ve met in this tournament and bond over golf. It was a good one to end on with a win.”

With Rebecca Smith, a recent Columbus East graduate, heading off to LaSalle, this was her final Morcott Challenge. Drew Smith likely won’t be playing in the event either, since next year’s tourney in Hilton Head will be during his spring golf season at North, and the following year in Dornoch, he’ll need to play in American tournaments that will be seen by college coaches.

This year, the Smiths spent about a week in Scotland prior to the Morcott Challenge. They played the Old Course at St. Andrews, the Castle Course at St. Andrews, Balcomie Course in Crail and Lundin Links in Leven.

The Morcott Challenge was played at Royal Dornoch. Before returning home, the Smiths watched the Scottish Open on July 9 at Castle Stuart in Inverness.

“It’s a wonderful place,” Jeff Smith said. “It looks like somebody dropped you into Harry Potter.”

What is the Morcott Challenge?

About the Morcott Challenge

The Morcott Challenge was started by Scottish golfer Woody Morcott in 2004 and pits youth from the Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, area and youth who play out of Royal Dornoch in Scotland.

The Challenge is contested in the summer of even-numbered years in Dornoch and in the spring of odd-numbered years in the Hilton Head area. The idea was to establish friendship while learning about the culture of the others and participating in a 54-hole, three-day Ryder Cup-style golf tournament.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.