Jamie McLeary finished off a superb week for the Challenge Tour’s Scottish contingent by becoming the first home winner of the event since its inception in 2006.
The 28 year old stormed to a two stroke victory from Italy’s Edoardo Molinari at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club to pick up the €32,000 first prize and set up a golden opportunity to win a place on The European Tour next season via the top 20 on the Challenge Tour Rankings.
McLeary’s victory moved him from 57th to 11th on the Rankings with ten events of the season remaining. The top 20 players at the end of the Challenge Tour season gain promotion to The European Tour.
With an eight under par total of 276, the record books will show that McLeary recorded an easy victory but he was under pressure throughout the day until his nearest challenger, overnight leader Molinari, came unstuck with a double bogey six at the 15th hole.
“I didn’t really know the situation until the 15th. I had birdied 13 and 14 and then I asked my dad (James) where I was because that was going to determine what I did off the 17th. Someone from Scottish Hydro actually told me that Edoardo had double-bogeyed 15 so I decided to play 17 very conservatively and it all worked out alright in the end.
“I would have been happy with second or first this week and I had checked with my dad what third place was and he said that I was three ahead of that. It is a great feeling to win my first event as a pro. I am delighted to finally get over the line. I was second in this event two years ago and it is very satisfying for me.
“Since this event started in 2006 everyone who has won this event has gone onto get their Tour card and that is what we all want to do. The Challenge Tour is a great place to learn your trade but we all want to playing on The European Tour and seeing how we do against the best players in the world. I am in the top 20 on the Rankings now and have to try and stay there.”
Joining McLeary in that all-important top 20 is his countryman Peter Whiteford, who took third place at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club to claim €14,000 and move to 13th on the Rankings.
Carlos Rodiles and Peter Baker shared fourth place to move to fourth and ninth on the Rankings respectively, while Englishman Steve Surry enjoyed a fantastic final round of seven under par 64 – a new course record – to leap into a tie for sixth place.
Former Open Champion Paul Lawrie finished the week in 50th spot after a disappointing weekend performance, but the exposure he brought to the event certainly made his appearance worthwhile.
While Molinari may be lamenting his double bogey on the 15th hole that effectively took him out of the running of the Scottish Hydro Challenge title, the Italian can fly home safe in the knowledge that his European Tour card for next season is secure as he leaped back to the top of the Rankings with €99,894 following his second place finish.