Former Open Champion Paul Lawrie will bring his vast experience to the European Challenge Tour this week when he headlines the field in the Scottish Hydro Challenge at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club in Aviemore.
It will be Lawrie’s first Challenge Tour appearance in 15 years - and some 17 years after he claimed his only other Challenge Tour title to date, the Scottish Brewers Championship - but he hopes to have an inside knowledge of the course, having played there on a family trip last summer.
“I’m really looking forward to playing the Scottish Challenge, particularly as I know the Spey Valley course very well, having played quite a bit of golf there whilst on holiday last year,” said Lawrie, who in 1999 overturned a ten shot deficit on the final day at Carnoustie to win The Open Championship.
“In terms of preparation and play, I’m going to treat it like a normal week on The European Tour. I’m certainly not going up there on holiday – I’m going there to win, because I don’t play in tournaments unless I feel I can win them.
“I’ll be up there to do a job, and I won’t be happy unless I come home with the trophy. I’ll be there to be shot at by the Challenge Tour boys, which is great. It’s a nice feeling and I’m going to enjoy the challenge.”
The Scot will have eldest son Craig as his caddie for the first time in a competitive tournament and added: “The whole family are coming up. Craig’s very excited about his role, although he might see a different side to his father than the one he’s become used to! Mind you, I don’t think I’ll be as harsh with him as I am with my regular caddie Andy Forsyth – I think his mum might have something to say about it if I was!”
Lawrie, a five-time champion on The European Tour, will be aiming to be the first Scottish winner of the tournament after Taco Remkes of the Netherlands triumphed last year to follow Englishmen Robert Dinwiddie and Sam Walker in 2007 and 2006 respectively.
Welshman Rhys Davies, the latest Challenge Tour champion who won the SWALEC Wales Challenge last weekend, will also now be travelling to Scotland after pulling out of an Asian Tour event in Brunei. Davies will be joined by James Morrison, who he beat in a play-off to win in Wales, and his fellow Englishman Andrew Butterfield, the current Challenge Tour Rankings leader, as well as Aberdonian Greig Hutcheon who will help bolster the host nation’s challenge.
The Scottish Challenge will again be the focal point of EventScotland’s support of the Challenge Tour and professional golf in Scotland ahead of The 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
Lawrie said: “Tournaments like the Scottish Challenge are crucial in raising the profile not only of the Challenge Tour, but also of tournament golf in Scotland in general as we look ahead to The Ryder Cup in five years’ time.
“I wish I’d played the Scottish Challenge in 2006 when it was at Murcar Links near Aberdeen, but unfortunately it was up against The European Open, which is obviously a massive event. But whenever possible, I think it’s important that guys from the main Tour play in tournaments in our own country like the Scottish Challenge.”
Alain de Soultrait, Director of the Challenge Tour, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have a player of Paul’s quality competing at the Scottish Challenge. It is not every day we welcome a Major Champion onto the Challenge Tour, so we should be grateful Paul has taken time out of his hectic schedule to support our event.”
The Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club, which is set against the backdrop of the Cairngorm mountain range, is considered one of the Macdonald Hotel group’s foremost venues.
The 7,100 yard, par 72 course, designed by Dave Thomas, includes a signature fifth hole which, at 635 yards, is officially the longest hole in Scotland.