As a man who has suffered both ultimate joy and suffering on the European Challenge Tour, Aberdeen’s Greig Hutcheon is in a perfect position to preview this week’s €200,000 Scottish Challenge, to be played at Murcar Links Golf Club.
Hutcheon, 33, has won and lost his place on The European Tour by the narrowest of margins via the Challenge Tour Rankings. He was elated when he won the last available Tour card by just €476 in 1999, but experienced the flip side of that joy two years later when he missed out by two places, with €1918 separating Hutcheon in 17th place and the man in 15th spot on the final Rankings.
With such experience of the Challenge Tour, and a local knowledge more comprehensive than most of the other 155 competitors in the field this week, Hutcheon is understandably excited by the Scottish Challenge, and is relishing the chance to play such a major tournament on his home turf.
“\Murcar’s a real old school course,” said Hutcheon. “It’s not too long but it’s stunning, and has got everything that you want in a links golf course – it’s tight, there’s gorse, humps, hollows and real rough. It’s just fantastic.
“It’s great to have the Challenge Tour back in Scotland. I think I have played on the Challenge Tour more than any other Scotsman in the last decade and I never got the chance to play at home, so it will be great to get the chance to defend the home territory.
“I think it’ll also be great for the Challenge Tour boys to come over to Scotland and play some links golf. Most of them will have played on links courses before in their amateur days but they won’t have played it for a while so it will be interesting to see how they get on.
“The standard on the Challenge Tour is very high, and the amount of good players out there is growing all the time. There must be about 100 out of the field of 156 that can win in any given week, and that gives you an idea how tough the competition is.”
Hutcheon endured his most deflating season as a professional last year. Plagued by a split shoulder, a classic rugby player’s injury, the 33 year old struggled with fitness and form and, as a result, ended the season with no chance of being able to play a full Challenge Tour schedule in 2006.
But he recuperated well during the winter, and has re-emerged as Scotland’s current Number One on the Scottish PGA Order of Merit, where he has notched a first, second and two third place finishes in his five appearances this season.
“I’m playing well again having finally recovered from the injury. I should have listened to The European Tour physios last year. They told me the injury was really quite bad but I tried to play through it and had my worst ever season as a result. I only made eight cuts on the Challenge Tour last year and my best finish was 12th, which is nowhere near my usual standard.
“But I have the hunger back as well now and I am really determined to get back up there on the Challenge Tour and to try and get back to the main Tour eventually. This week could be a big step in that direction if I can get the right result.”
The Scottish Challenge, which will be funded primarily by EventScotland and Ryder Cup Ltd., has been conceived as a direct result of Scotland’s successful bid to host the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
As well as enlisting the invaluable support of EventScotland. the Scottish Challenge, which will occupy a prime position on the 2006 Challenge Tour Schedule and take place the week before the Barclays Scottish Open, will have backing from Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Enterprise Grampian, the Stewart Milne Group and media partners the Aberdeen Press and Journal, Grampian Panalpina and Petrofac.
Admission and car parking at the Scottish Challenge are free of charge.