Scotsmen Callum Macaulay and Craig Lee are hoping to make it a hat-trick of home champions in the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course this week.
For the past two years the event has produced a Scottish winner – Jamie McLeary in 2009 and George Murray 12 months ago – and Macaulay and Lee have an extra incentive to win given their close ties with the title sponsors.
The pair are part of Team Scottish Hydro, which gives strategic and financial support to five young Scottish professionals in the hope of producing more European Tour and Ryder Cup players. It is the third year Scottish Hydro have been title sponsors, and the event also returns for the third season running to the magnificent Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore.
With an increased prize fund of €220,000, it is one of the most lucrative events on the Challenge Tour schedule.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Macaulay. “The course is great and was in really good shape last year. I just hope the weather is better than it has been this week because I’m fed up with getting soaked and blown all over the place.
“It’s an important week because it’s like my home event. I’ll finally get to spend some time with my family which is much needed as this is my seventh week in a row playing. I’m looking forward to getting back, seeing my wife and having some home cooked meals with my parents.
“There’s probably less pressure playing in Scotland rather than more, despite being closely linked with the tournament sponsors. We can go out and just enjoy our golf, and we are fortunate to have the backing of Scottish Hydro. I’m just going to try and enjoy it and hopefully I won’t be too tired as it will be my eighth tournament in a row.
“We’ll be helping Scottish Hydro out next week with media stuff and the five of us are spending a day with them at their offices in Perth. We’ll be trying to introduce the sport to the working colleagues who maybe don’t know much about golf. We’ve got a putting competition, so it should be good fun.”
Lee is also looking forward to some home comforts, which will be well deserved after his joint runner-up finish in the Saint-Omer Open presented by Neuflize OBC last week.
“I get to stay at home in my own bed which will be a very nice change” he said. “It’ll be a great week as people are looking out for you as part of the Scottish Hydro Team and I quite like that attention.
“I’m delighted with the way I played in Saint Omer and it will be a big confidence boost for next week.”
McLeary, Gavin Dear and Chris Doak are the other members of Team Scottish Hydro aiming for victory, and they are part of a strong field which also includes Challenge Tour Rankings leader Chris Gane and another Scottish hopeful in Alastair Forsyth.
“It’s always good to be playing at home,” said Forsyth, who lost his European Tour card last season after 11 consecutive years. “Ideally I wouldn’t be playing Challenge Tour but I am and I’ve got to make the best of it.
“I’ve been away a lot recently between the two tours, so it’ll be nice to spend some time with my little girl and the family.
“I don’t know Aviemore very well – it’s about three hours from where I live – and I haven’t played the course before. I’ve heard good things about it though, so I’m looking forward to it.
“My form has been good lately. I’ve been knocking on the door – I had an outside chance in Saint Omer and had the same in Mallorca and Madeira. If I can just improve my putting I’ll be in with a shout.”
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