Amateur Wilson Starts Strong

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TROON, Scotland -- Stuart Wilson's first stint as a pro lasted only a handful of events, just long enough to persuade him to return to college, get an education and have his amateur status reinstated.
 
After his 3-under 68 at Royal Troon in the first round of the British Open on Thursday, the 26-year-old British Amateur champion may be ready to try it again.
 
'He's got the game to be a pro, there's no denying it,' former Masters and British Open champion Mark O'Meara said after playing with Wilson. 'If he decided to turn pro again, I wouldn't turn him away from doing it. I was very impressed. Hopefully, he can keep it going.'
 
Wilson's 68 eclipsed some of golf's biggest names. Ernie Els managed only 69, Tiger Woods shot 70 and Masters champion Phil Mickelson had a 73. And for a brief moment after he birdied the par-4 seventh to go 4 under, Wilson was only one shot out of the lead.
 
'That certainly brought a smile to my face,' he said. 'Walking up the eighth and my name was on the leaderboard. It was just tremendous.'
 
On the 18th, he broke into another huge smile, dropping a 25-foot putt to save par after his tee shot found a bunker. The gallery erupted with one of he largest cheers of the day.
 
'That was unbelievable, really unbelievable,' Wilson said.
 
Wilson turns 27 on Sunday. On Monday he figures to return to work in a golf store in the northern Scottish town of Monifieth - perhaps as the Open's top amateur.
 
'Back to the shop, back to work bright and breezy 9 a.m. on Monday,' he said.
 
A relatively short hitter, Wilson excels on links courses where accuracy is at a premium and distance is gained along the firm fairways. Last weekend at Loch Lomond, an inland course with green grass and soft fairway, he shot 79-79 and badly missed the cut in the Scottish Open.
 
That extended his record of missing cuts in professional events to 100 percent, a streak that could end after Friday. In his only other British Open, Wilson shot 77-70 for an early exit from Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001.
 
'It's a case of never say never,' he said about turning professional again. 'I'm playing quite well just now, but I've still got a long way to go and I can improve it. So I wouldn't rule it out. I'm just hoping to make it to the weekend.'
 
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