Golf fans across Scotland are being given a rare chance to watch some of the future stars of the game competing in a major international tournament this month.
Hundreds of budding Rory McIlroys from across the globe will take to the links in East Lothian on May 31 for the start of 2011 U.S. Kids Golf European Championship - a three day competition showcasing the world's best junior golfers.
More than 500 youngsters from as far afield as Australia, Venezuela, Namibia and Egypt will compete for title of European Champion in their age groups, with many of them already tipped as potential Major-winners of the future.
The tournament will feature young players from the ages of five to 18 - split into different age groups - who will play on a series of shortened courses, allowing them to reach the greens in the same number of shots as the professionals. Despite their age, the participants are already proficient golfers and are able to hit shots straighter and more accurately than many adults, with many of them recording under-par rounds in the 60s and 70s.
Tournament co-ordinator Alasdair Good, who is the head PGA professional at Gullane Golf Club, said: "The U.S. Kids Golf European Championship always showcases the best emerging talent in the game and this year will involve one of the biggest fields of competitors we have ever had.
"We have competitors from almost 40 countries coming to East Lothian this year including, for the first time, youngsters from Namibia, China and Japan. We also have a strong contingent of players from the United States and across Europe, so it should be a real international showcase of young golfing talent.
"There's no doubt that these youngsters are the best golfers in their age groups, so I expect this year's championship to be at least as exciting as watching the professionals during The Open or the PGA Championship.
"I guarantee that any spectators who come to watch will not be disappointed at the standard of golf on display."
The 2011 tournament will include four players who are just five years old competing on the links - Rezario Adams from South Africa, Jakub Svarc from the Czech Republic, Samuel Aydin from Sweden and Giorgio Celani from Italy.
Among those who are travelling the furthest to attend the event will be Sakura Nagano from Japan, Carlos Philippe Winsett-Palanca from Manila in the Philippines and Wan Jia Han from China.
The tournament will also include a group of Egyptian juniors who are travelling to Scotland to compete, despite the ongoing political unrest in their home country.
Dan Van Horn, President and founder of U.S. Kids Golf, added: "We're delighted to be coming back to East Lothian once again to stage the U.S. Kids Golf European Championship and welcoming so many youngsters from all over the world.
"We have our biggest ever field of competitors this year and there will be more nations represented than ever before. It's great to see young golfers coming from as far away as China and Japan, as well as from countries experiencing huge political changes such as Egypt.
"We have youngsters competing in all age categories from five year olds up to 18 year olds and the skill of these players really has to be seen to be believed. Despite their young ages, they demonstrate great poise, balance and professionalism and are a credit to the game.
"I am sure that many of these youngsters will go on to become at the very least competent golfers, but possibly even the Rory McIlroy's of tomorrow.
"We would be delighted to welcome any golf fans who want to see the next generation of star players in action. The tournament is open for anyone to watch, so we hope that there will be a good number of spectators coming to cheer on the players as they compete for the European Championship titles."
The U.S Kids Golf European Championship will take place over May 31-June 2 on five of Scotland's most historic courses - Gullane No.2, Gullane No.3, Craigielaw Golf Club, Luffness New Golf Club and Longniddry Golf Club. Competitors are split into age categories and each green will be modified for each age group, allowing players to complete each course in the same number of strokes as the top pros on the PGA tour.
Top finishers in each category will then compete for the Van Horn Cup over Gullane No1 - a show piece event modelled on the Ryder Cup, where European competitors are pitted against their non European counterparts. The top five finishers in each age and gender group will automatically receive an invitation to the U.S Kids Golf World Championships at Pinehurst Golf Club, North Carolina, in August.
The tournament is hosted by the U.S. Kids Golf Foundation, which provides opportunities for children across the world to learn and play golf and to forge new friendships. Since holding its first tournament in 2000, the Foundation now runs some 400 events each year across the world.
For more information or to enter the U.S. Kids Golf European Championship, visit www.uskidsgolf.com