Matthew Southgate got his reward for three rounds of unerring accuracy at the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course after a four under par 67 saw him take a two shot lead going into the final round of the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
The young Englishman, in his first year as a professional, has been in sparkling form from tee to green in the Scottish Highlands as he surged through the field to post a 13 under par leading score, two clear of first and second round leader Chris Doak of Scotland, Italy’s Federico Colombo and Frenchman Edouard Dubois.
Another Scot, Greig Hutcheon, posted the lowest round of the day, a fine six under par 65, to move back into contention on nine under alongside the English duo of Ben Evans and Lloyd Kennedy, but it was Southgate who took command of the tournament with 18 holes to play.
The 22 year old, who turned professional after a successful trip to last year’s Qualifying School ensured him full playing rights on this season’s Challenge Tour, is finally finding the professional form that saw him win the prestigious St Andrews links Trophy as an amateur last year.
“It was a good day – I have been playing great all week and I just tried to keep to the same swing thoughts as yesterday because I really was in the groove,” said Southgate.
“I actually hit 36 greens in regulation over the past three days – I missed the 12th green in the first round and then hit every one yesterday and hit the first 11 holes today so I am striking as good or better than anyone else. I have just had that great feeling of putting the club in the slot and hitting it.
“I’ll wake up tomorrow and be pretty nervous but that is a good thing in my opinion. If you are not nervous then it can’t be important and you always have to try and remember that everyone else around you will probably be just as nervous as me.
“I might be shaking like a leaf when I wake up but it’ll calm down a bit and then all I can really do is hit the first tee shot, find it and hit the next one and see what happens.”
Southgate would dearly love to win his first professional event in the Home of Golf. He may have a strong English accent, but there can be no argument that he is, certainly in golfing terms, a surrogate Scotsman having been a member of the world famous Carnoustie Golf Club since he was 16.
He was introduced to the world famous links by his father, himself a Member there for 30 years having competed in the ‘Tassie’ a famous amateur matchplay completion that has been played on Scotland’s east coast since 1927.
“I just love playing in Scotland and coming up here to play,” said Southgate. “I have been a Member of Carnoustie since I was 16. My dad has been a member there for about 30 years, since he started going up to play in the Tassie. To do that you have to be pretty good at golf and very good at drinking and the old man beats me hands down at that so he was always pretty happy there!
“He actually became a Member there during his first trip there. He played the practice round for the Tassie and after it he walked into the Snug Bar in the Clubhouse unaware that it was a Members Only bar. So, sure enough, the Captain and Secretary approached him and asked him to leave but he got chatting to them and ended up becoming really good friends with them and loads of the other Members.
“He still is, and the support that I have had from the people there this week has been superb, from past Captains to my own friends there. I have had so many phone calls and texts and it has been great. There is a past Captain there called John Lawrie who actually caddies for me at the St Andrews Links last year. I have spoken to him every day.
“My dad must have become a Member 30 years ago. There is a very strong connection between my family and Scotland in terms of golf and I just love the place. My grandfather was Scottish but I wouldn’t say he was a proper Scotsman!
“I try to get up a couple of times a year and I always try to make the Lindsay Shield, which is a match between Carnoustie and St Andrews. It’s a real honour to put on the Carnoustie shirt and take on St Andrews. As I said, I just love the place.”
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