Sunday, 06 May 2001
Greig Hutcheon gave Scotland its second Challenge Tour victory in little more than a month when he won the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open at Ascona in Switzerland. A closing round of 66 for 18-under-par 266 left him a shot clear of Germany's Kariem Baraka and Jesus Maria Arruti of Spain with Finland's Kalle Vainola fourth on 269.

Hutcheon arrived in Switzerland on the back of a missed cut in Italy and having seen his close pal and room-mate Euan Little gain his maiden Challenge Tour victory in Spain on 1 April.

Even so, the 28-year-old Aberdonian felt he had turned the corner with his game and something special was about to happen. "This is my second time in Ascona and I like the course so it is just a case of making some birdies," he said. As it turned out, his birdied haul was 22 but it was the five he secured over the final nine holes which proved so important.

On a final day graced by sunshine and warm conditions in contrast to the earlier rounds, there were a spate of low scores and no fewer than four players held the lead at one stage or another.

Baraka, a nephew of Bernhard Langer, and a pro for less than a year, set the target. He blitzed the Patriziale course in 62 with nine birdies, which would have been a record but preferred lies were in operation.

It left the young German on 17 under 267 and with every chance of finishing top of the tree. However, 32-year-old Arruti matched him with a 64, which included eagles at three of the par fives and a birdie at the other. “I’ve never been a long hitter but I hit all the par-fives in two,” he said. “I’ve always been straight but I’ve got a Callaway ERC driver which has changed everything.”

These two looked set for a playoff, especially as Hutcheon reached the turn in 35 with one birdie to move to 14 under and was still three behind.

"I didn't feel good over the first eight holes," said Hutcheon. "I had no birdie chances and if I had been two over at the turn I couldn't have complained." However, it was a birdie-three from the fringe of the ninth green that sparked the Scot alight.

He then reeled off further birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th to move to 17 under and when he hit a wedge from 133 yards to 15 inches at the 15th for another he was ahead.

"Then I knew I just had to make pars at the last three holes to win, but it wasn't easy," Hutcheon added. Even so, he safely negotiated the 16th and 17th and at the last he had a birdie putt from 16 feet which just edged past. It left him with a four inch tap-in to take the title and a first prize of just under £11,000.

Vainola, whose game has been in the doldrums for a long time, is showing a welcome return of form. He finished under par in Italy last week and his fourth spot is his best for a considerable time.

Stuart Little completed another successful week with joint fifth place on 270 after a seven-birdie 64, alongside fellow Englishman Gary Clark, who closed with 68.

The Irish duo of Damian McGrane and Peter Lawrie also basked in the sunshine, shooting their lowest Challenge Tour rounds of 64 and 66 respectively to finish together in seventh spot on 271 with South African Ashley Roestoff, back in the frame after last week’s disqualification in Italy.

Sweden’s Adam Mednick was another to return 64, finishing joint 11th with Pascal Edmond from France, Gianluca Baruffaldi of Italy, and England’s Simon Wakefield.

But the day belonged to Hutcheon. After graduating from the Challenge Tour at the Grand Final in Cuba in 1999, the Scot lost his card last autumn but seems to be on the way back now that he has found the secret again.

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