Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Paul Lawrie backs Scottish Hydro Challenge to breed success

Paul Lawrie has backed the 2010 Scottish Hydro Challenge to breed further Scots success on the European Challenge Tour.
The 1999 Open Champion, who played in the tournament last year, believes that the victory of Jamie McLeary at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club last summer, as well as top six finishes for Peter Whiteford (third) and Scott Jamieson (tied sixth), is the ultimate proof of the value the €200,000 event generates for the development of Scottish professionals.
Lawrie will not be able to play in this year’s tournament, from June 10-13 in the Scottish Highlands, as he will be on European Tour duty at the re-arranged Estoril Open de Portugal; but, despite the clash of schedules, the Aberdonian is keen to highlight the importance of an event that will give up to 30 Scots the opportunity to compete at a higher level than normal.
“The Scottish Hydro Challenge is a tournament of huge significance to the Scottish game,” said Lawrie. “Anyone who cares about the development of professional golfers in our country has to recognise that.
“To have a Challenge Tour event in Scotland, featuring some of the best young players in Europe, gives our home players the chance to gauge their abilities against the kind of competition that they should expect to come up against throughout a career at the top level.
“The Scottish Hydro Challenge is a step-up from any regional or national tournaments that the majority of our young pros compete in. The players who have the chance to play at Spey Valley will find themselves surrounded by guys from around Europe and the rest of the world who are hugely talented and desperately hungry for success.
“To give our players a sense of that environment can only improve standards in Scotland and eventually help us get more players competing at the game’s highest level.”
McLeary’s victory last year is the perfect illustration of the level required to succeed on the Challenge Tour, the circuit that launched the careers of Thomas Björn, Michael Campbell, Trevor Immelman, Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson.
The 29-year-old had to resist the advances of Edoardo Molinari to take the top prize of €32,000 at Spey Valley last year, and the Italian has since gone on to enjoy huge success, winning the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for Italy in partnership with younger brother Francesco and bursting his way into the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
“When you look at what Edoardo has done since last summer you get a good idea of what kind of players are coming through the Challenge Tour,” said McLeary, who finished tied for eighth place at last week’s Turkish Airlines Challenge hosted by Carya Golf Club.
“The standard is high and you cannot afford to stand still because people will fly past you in the Rankings. You have to be dedicated to constant improvement and the more Scottish players that experience this level of competition, the more players will be able to break through to the top level.
“Winning the Scottish Hydro Challenge last season did wonders for my confidence, and gave me the belief that I can get onto The European Tour and compete there. Hopefully, I can show that over the coming months and break into that all-important Challenge Tour top 20 come the end of the season to win a place on The European Tour.”



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