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Jack's learning curve has been something Els.

Byline: Euan McLean

He was controversially snubbed for Scotland's Eisenhower Trophy team but Jack McDonald still looks destined to make his mark on the world stage.

A stellar season saw the 19-year-old reach the semi-final of the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon and then hold his own with the game's biggest names on his European Tour debut.

After rubbing shoulders with stars such as Ernie Els, Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari at the Scottish Open in July, most observers saw him as a shoo-in for Scotland's side heading to the World Amateur Team Championship.

So his omission from the three-man side, despite being the highest placed Scot in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, earned controversy that quickly turned to condemnation when the team finished tied 44th at the event in Turkey.

But despite that disappointment McDonald can only see positives when he looks back on a stunning breakthrough season - with one day at the Scottish Open an undoubted highlight.

The final round at Castle Stuart when his superb display to make the cut and surge to eight under after three days had earned him a dream pairing with Ernie Els.

McDonald said: "It was a great day. Playing with Ernie was phenomenal. At the time he had bagged three Majors and by the following Sunday he was lifting his fourth when he won The Open at Lytham.

"So for a young boy like me to be playingwithaguywiththatamount of experience and knowledge of the game was so valuable.

"I tried to play my best but maybe tried too hard because I couldn't get the momentum going and shot my worst score of the week. I never holed the key putts I needed to on that front nine and it just tailed away.

"I did start playing nice golf and by then it was like a normal day - except the big man was there!

"We chatted a bit about golf and he was saying he was watching me in the Amateur Championship on the telly. It was pretty good to hear that the pros are watching.

"He made it easy for me and even apologised to me for the way he played on the front nine.

"The two of us were struggling a wee bit but that's golf and it was just one of those days when the two of us couldn't really get it going.

"But I couldn't have planned a better week. It started with my coach Dean Robertson arranging a practice round with Francesco Molinari.

"Then I chipped in at the 18th to make the cut on Friday and followed that up with a 68 on Saturday.

"That experience of the European Tour really gave me a taste for it. I'd love to do this, travelling the world playing golf. That's not bad is it?" McDonald's bid to build on his potential is supported by Stirling University where he studies maths as well as progressing through a sporting scholarship programme.

He is one of 150 talented student athletes to receive backing from Scotland's national sports scholarship programme 'Winning Students' in 2012/13. The full roster is to be announced on Wednesday and includes Olympic swimmers and Commonwealth triathletes.

These athletes combine training with their studies at universities and colleges across the country and will do so with the aid of tailored support through funding and a flexible class regime to maximise their progress.

The scholarship roster will be announced at Stirling Sports Village where support from Winning Students has helped to establish a national training hub for elite curlers in partnership with Scottish and British Curling.

Now in its fifth year, 11 current and former Winning Students were competing at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.

At the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games 29 Winning Students starred for their countries with two gold medals and one silver placing the scholarship programme equivalent to 18th place in the final standings.

Many students are turning their attention to selection for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and new recruits will be buoyed by a survey of the programme revealing that 62 per cent of students cited an improvement in their performance since gaining scholarship support.

Winning Students Programme co-ordinator Jason Atkins said: "Winning Students is delighted to play its part in developing sporting talent ahead of so many major sporting events.

"Scotland's universities and colleges are packed with sporting talent and the support ensures these students can also prepare for successful careers after sport."


JACK AND THRILL McDonald shares a moment to remember with Els at the Scottish Open (left) where the teen held his own (right)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 28, 2012
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