One of the strongest European Challenge Tour fields of the season will assemble at the Macdonald Cardrona Golf and Country Club this week, when Andrew McArthur will bid to become the first home winner of the Scottish Challenge.
McArthur is one of 13 winners on the 2008 Challenge Tour Schedule who will head to Peebles, Scotland, to compete for the €220,000 prize fund – the fifth largest on offer this season.
The latest player to add his name to the roll call of Challenge Tour champions was England’s David Horsey, whose one-shot victory at last week’s Telenet Trophy was his maiden success on the Challenge Tour.
He said: “To win on the Challenge Tour is a brilliant feeling – I’m chuffed to bits. I’ll have a few drinks to celebrate, then get myself ready for the Scottish Challenge. My game’s in really good shape at the minute, so I can’t wait for the rest of the season now.”
Horsey will join fellow winners Antti Ahokas of Finland, the English trio of Seve Benson, Gary Clark and Simon Robinson, Wil Besseling of the Netherlands, Argentina’s Estanislao Goya and Miguel Rodriguez, Sweden’s Joakim Haegmann, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, Scotland’s McArthur, Paraguay’s Marco Ruiz and Italy’s Alessandro Tadini at the 6,990 yards, par 72 course, which is located 20 miles south of Edinburgh.
In its short history, the Scottish Challenge has been dominated by English players, with last year’s winner Robert Dinwiddie – now a permanent fixture on The European Tour International Schedule, where he is thriving with three top ten finishes already to his name this season – following in the footsteps of his compatriot Sam Walker, who captured the inaugural title in 2006.
But with the nation’s golf currently in rude health, the home fans will have high hopes for this year’s Scottish contingent, headed by McArthur.
The Glaswegian went some way towards fulfilling his rich promise at the start of this month when claiming his first Challenge Tour title at the Reale Challenge de España in Madrid.
Having narrowly missed out on graduation to The European Tour in the past two seasons, McArthur is more determined than ever to make the step up this year.
He said: “Winning in Madrid was important because it means I can go into events knowing I can do it, and the more I do that and think that way then the better my results will be. It sounds clichéd, but it’s true: you have to go into every tournament thinking about winning it, not just about making the cut.
“When you start to think about making the cut you invariably finish on or around that mark. Obviously you’re not going to contend every week, but if you can make yourself believe it at the start of every tournament then you’re going to give yourself a lot more chances.
“I’ve been comfortable for a while on the Challenge Tour, knowing that when I play well I can compete. But getting the win is another hurdle out of the way, and hopefully I can kick on from this and keep moving up.
“I got a taste for The European Tour earlier this year when I played a few events, and that is where I want to be. I still believe the best way to do that is through the Challenge Tour, so I’m going to concentrate purely on the Challenge Tour for the rest of this season and hopefully win myself a full season on The European Tour next year.”
Other Scots who will be keen to perform well in front of their home fans are former Walker Cup players Richie Ramsay and Lloyd Saltman, who also performed creditably in Madrid, finishing sixth and second respectively.
With three top ten Challenge Tour finishes to his name, Ramsay – who in 2006 became the first Scotsman since Findlay Douglas in 1988 to win the US Amateur Championship – is finally finding the consistency to match his talent.
Other Scots with impressive performances behind them this season include Scott Henderson, fifth at the Tusker Kenya Open; Greig Hutcheon, runner-up at the Banque Populaire Moroccan Classic, and David Drysdale, tied seventh at the SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by NEUFLIZE OBC.
European Tour winner and Edinburgh resident Andrew Oldcorn is also in the 156-man field, along with Denmark’s Søren Juul, joint runner-up at the Telenet Trophy.