/17/2018 3:50:23 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.
[ Story by MARTIN DEMPSTER - Edinburgh News]
Capital ace Andrew Ni has earned a dream trip to Abu Dhabi later this year after making it first-time lucky in the long-running junior series run by six-time major winner Nick Faldo.
The 20-year Murrayfield member finished with a flourish to claim victory in the Faldo Series Scottish Championship at Bruntsfield Links.
He birdied three of the last four holes in the third and final round then birdied the first extra hole to pip Lanark's Andrew Thomson and Rachel Foster (Prestwick St Nicholas) in a sudden-death play-off.
The victory secured a spot in the Grand Final later in the year in the United Arab Emirates, where Ni will be joined by Longniddry's Cameron Gallacher and Cameron Adam (Royal Burgess) after they won the under-18s and under-16s categories respectively.
"It was really exciting – but also a bit nerve-wracking," admitted Ni of his success, which was earned through rounds of 71-68-71 for a level-par 210 total.
"I hit a nice run of birdies at the end, holing from eight feet, 10 feet and then one foot, to get into the play-off.
"This was my first Faldo Series event and it's my first win of any note, to be honest, and I'm really excited about getting to play in the Grand Final out in Abu Dhabi in November."
Ni was speaking before heading in the opposite direction, having headed off on Tuesday to resume his stint for the "Thunderbirds" at New Mexico Junior College in the US. "I've done one year there and have another go before I will switch to a university for another two years," he said. "My game has improved markedly since I've been over there.
"My ball-striking is so much better and my putting has also improved, especially when it comes to 14-15 footers. Being able to play and practice in good weather has definitely helped me in that respect."
In addition to his Faldo Series success, Ni helped Murrayfield win the Edinburgh Inter-Club Tournament on his summer visit back home.
"We've got a lot of strong players at the club at the moment, including Ali and Stuart Thurlow, Bobby Gibson, Cameron Whyte and a few others," he said. "We are all good friends and it was great that the club managed to win the Inter Club this year - that was an amazing feeling.
"Jonnie Cliff, the head pro at the club, has been really good with all of us. Even when we're out of the country, he encourages us to message him and ask any question.
"We've also had Richie Ramsay up at the club a couple of times and it was great to speak to him about his career."
Gallagher fired rounds of 74-69-72 to claim a six-shot win over Bathgate's Liam Currid in the under-18s event while Adam birdied the last two holes for a one-shot victory in their under-16s section.