After his outstanding performance in France last week, Craig Lee is ready to lead the home charge at the Scottish Hydro Challenge as the host nation for this week’s €220,000 Challenge Tour event looks to produce a third consecutive home winner.
Following on from the victories of Jamie McLeary (2009) and George Murray (2010) at the magnificent Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course in the Scottish Highland town of Aviemore, Lee is hoping to add his name to the roll of honour after finishing second in last week’s AA St Omer Open in France.
That result propelled the 34 year old to second place on the Challenge Tour Rankings with earnings of €49,806 and well on his way to winning one of the 20 European Tour cards on offer to the top Challenge players at the end of the season.
Indeed, should Lee emerge triumphant with this week’s first prize of €35,200 he will be in an almost unassailable position to relinquish a place on The 2012 European Tour.
He certainly has the form over the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course, having won the Tartan Tour’s Northern Open at the same venue in 2009 and will start the tournament as the favourite of the 24 Scotsmen in the field.
“We have had two Scottish winners over the last two years here. I don’t think it brings extra pressure – you put pressure on yourself but you shouldn’t feel it that much,” said Lee, who, along with compatriots Gavin Dear, Chris Doak, Callum Macaulay and McLeary, forms Team Scottish Hydro.
“It is great to see the Scots boys doing well and the fact that we are out in force again this week means that there is a realistic chance that we will have a Scottish winner. We have all got the talent and know the course well enough and are used to the elements so it does play into our hands a little bit.
“I am certainly coming into the tournament on a high. The form varies from day to day as the body stiffens up or is nice and loose but that is more to do with the joys of getting old. But in terms of my mental state I am really looking forward to getting out there this week.
“This week is a great chance to really push on in the Rankings again. A good finish here would go a long way to me securing my card. I have already crossed a few hurdles after the result last week. I am almost guaranteed the top 45 on the Rankings which takes care of a few things like being exempt to the final stage of the Qualifying School and things like that.”
Some of the credit for Lee’s outstanding performance last weekend must go to Team Scottish Hydro, a programme that offers financial and management support to Dear, Doak, Lee, Macaulay and McLeary in the hope that those players will develop into European Tour champions.
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