England’s Sam Walker put the seal on a magnificent performance with a final round of six under par 65 to run away with the inaugural Scottish Challenge title, by six shots from Welshman Gareth Wright at Murcar Links Golf Club. Walker, who had registered four second place finishes on the European Challenge Tour before this maiden victory, proved himself unstoppable on Scotland’s north east coast and deservedly took home the €32,000 first prize.
What a week it was for the 28 year old. He opened the tournament with a solid three under par 68 in the worst of the first round conditions, and followed it up with a 69 to move to five under at the halfway stage.
Walker was four shots off the lead on Friday night, but after one of the best single round performances of his career in round three, when he conjured a magical round of 64 amidst the most brutal conditions of the four days, he found himself four shots ahead with 18 holes to play.
By the time he reached the turn in his final round, he had left the rest of the field in his wake by extending his advantage to six shots. New Zealand’s Gareth Paddison and Wright had made fine efforts to close the gap on the 28 year old by getting to the turn in three under, but Walker outgunned his closest pursuers with birdies on the second, third, seventh, eighth and ninth to turn in 31.
From there, it turned into a victory march, with the Englishman able to fully enjoy what would become the biggest day of is professional career to date.
Paddison picked up birdies on the 11th, 12th and 13th to close the gap to three shots, but a double bogey at the 14th ended his charge, and, in any case, his playing partner Walker was, as he had been in the third round - unyielding..
The Englishman closed out his victory with a birdie on the 17th and a par on the 18 to post the winning score of 18 under par to finish five ahead of Wright, and six shots clear of third placed Scotsman Chris Doak.
“I’m over the moon,” said Walker. “I played so well over the weekend – in fact I don’t think that I could have played any better than I did on those last two rounds and to have my first Challenge tour win in Scotland is an unbelievable feeling.
“I just went out there today and tried to play the same game as I had done when I shot 64 on Saturday and I managed to do that. Gareth got a little bit close to me when he birdied three out of four on the back nine, but I managed to stay cool and just told myself to go on and win it.”
As Walker was presented with his trophy and winner’s cheque, Scotland’s Ritchie Ramsay stood next to him at the prize giving as the leading amateur in the field, having produced a wonderful final round of nine under par 62 to reset the course record he himself had established during the second round and to take fourth place overall in the tournament.
Ramsay, who represented Great Britain and Ireland in the 2005 Walker Cup, could have been challenging Walker for first place had he not opened the tournament with a 77, but his nine under par total was still a remarkable feat given the Challenge Tour’s extremely high standard of golf, which Walker exemplified best of all.
|2||WRIGHT , Gareth||WAL||18||-12|