A rampant performance from Scotland’s golfers, that included two course records, ensured that the Scottish Challenge leaderboard had a particularly homely feel at the halfway stage, with five out of the top eight players representing the home of golf with distinction at Murcar Links Golf Club.
Chris Doak and Jamie McLeary lead the way on nine under par after respective rounds of 63 and 65. Doak’s 63 matched the course record set earlier by the Scottish amateur player, Ritchie Ramsay, who banished the memory of his opening 77 with a fantastic performance to make the level par cut with ease.
Scott Henderson, another player playing under the blue and white Saltire of Scotland, posted a five under 66 to join Denmark’s Anders Schmidt Hansen and the Welshman Gareth Wright on eight under par, with another Scots pair – Colin Gilies and Murray Urquhart – just one more stroke further back after rounds of 64 and 68 took them to seven under.
It was a fantastic day for the Scots at Murcar, who took full advantage of playing on their home turf to dominate the inaugural Scottish Challenge, which, with a prize fund of €200,000 is the third biggest Challenge Tour event on the 2006 Schedule thanks to the support of EventScotland, along with co-sponsors Aberdeen City Council, Scottish Enterprise Grampian, the Stewart Milne Group, Grampian Panalpina, Petrofac and media partners the Aberdeen Press and Journal
For Doak, McLeary, Henderson, Gilies and Urquhart, a victory this weekend would alter the path of their careers.
Of the five, only Urquhart has a full Challenge Tour category, and a victory, with a first prize of €32,000, would ensure full Challenge Tour status as well as an excellent opportunity to compete for a place among the top 20 players on the end of season Rankings, which is rewarded with the ultimate prize of a place on The 2007 European Tour.
“That’s my full time aim,” said Doak after his brilliant 63 that contained ten birdies and just a single bogey. “I think the Challenge Tour is the best way to go. The level of play out here is very high, and that brings your golf on so much.
“I played very well today and holed a lot of putts. Most of them were from ten to 12 feet so the irons were good today. I’m delighted with my position, considering I only actually got into this event last Sunday.
“I should have been in automatically after winning the Tartan Tour last year, but there was a bit of an ‘administrative error’ which meant I was going to miss out until Alain de Soultrait, the Challenge Tour Director and Iain Stoddart from Bounce Sports Management did a great job of getting me in the tournament. I'd like to thank my sponsors at the Orion Group, for their support as well.”
Like Doak, McLeary justified his invitation to the Scottish Challenge with a great second round that included two eagles in his opening four holes. The first came at the par four second hole, where the 25 year old’s perfect pitch from 70 yards found the bottom of the cup before he holed a 20 footer for an eagle three on the fourth.
“Two eagles in four holes was a good start!” smiled McLeary. “I went out in 30 but it could have been better. I missed a couple of short ones on the eighth and ninth, so it could have been 28 out. Then on the back nine I didn’t hit it close enough apart from on the 16th and 18th, but I am happy with a 65.
“When I started playing on the Challenge Tour I knew that nine or ten thousand euros will get you into the second stage of The Tour Qualifying School so that’s the first aim. You need to be in the top 100 of the Challenge Tour by the 21 of August to make it so that’s the first goal. I’m 88th just now and if I keep playing the way that I have been then I should be okay, and if I can win here then it would change everything for me. ”
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