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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Gareth Shaw (Yannick Peeters)  (EuropeanTour)
Gareth Shaw (Yannick Peeters) (EuropeanTour)
Gareth Shaw arrives for this week’s Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts after a huge performance at Saint Omer, where he picked up the biggest cheque of his season and earned a debut appearance in next week's Irish Open thanks to Simon Thornton’s victory.

The Northern Irishman was rooming with Thornton that week and hung around to watch his friend claim his maiden European Tour title via a play-off triumph over Tjaart Van der Walt.

That meant that Thornton moved into the European Tour winners’ exemption category and the invitation which he had received was passed on to Shaw, an incredible coincidence on a Sunday which filled Shaw with confidence before this week’s Challenge Tour event at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club in Aviemore.

“It was just great,” said Shaw, who is attached to Galgorm Golf Club and Estates, the host venue for this year's inaugural Northern Ireland Open Challenge Presented by Clannah and XJET. “Simon was on the brink of missing the cut on Friday but had an incredible final 45 holes and deserved his win.

"He played the best golf when it mattered, so it’s great to see and I’ll hopefully stay in touch with him because he’s a great contact to have. He says it how it is and has had experience on all the tours.

“It’s amazing how quickly things can change in your career. It was a great week overall. I went down there Tuesday as first reserve and then I got in and then made the cut and went on to finish tied 15th.

“I got a few quid for the Rankings and then Simon wins to get me into the Irish Open, so I cannot wait for that. It’s a good opportunity for me and it’s my first time playing it.”

Having topped satellite Alps Tour Order of Merit last year, the first Northern Irishman to do so, Shaw’s second season on the Challenge Tour has been on a steady upward curve, culminating in his strong finish at the lucrative dual-ranking Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open presented by Neuflize OBC last week.

He believes he is growing in confidence, and watching Thornton claim a first title instilled even more self-belief.

“I've been saying for a while now that the margins between 20th and second or third or even contending are so small,” said the 27 year old, who has missed just one cut in eight appearances this year. “Simon proved it last week. He beat me by only six shots over four rounds and now has a European Tour card.

“It does fill you with confidence seeing Simon do that because I've played a lot with him recently. My fourth rounds have let me down this year. I have been in position a few times to get a few top tens or top fives and haven’t finished it off, which is disappointing.

“Last week was the first time I've moved forward on the fourth day which is nice, so hopefully I can kick on from here.

“I actually played with Matteo Manassero here last time around in 2009 for the last two rounds, which was an experience. He’s gone on to pretty good things you could say!

“It’s a good golf course here this week, one I remember well so we’ll see how it goes. I am a good wind player and a good course management player so the course kind of suits me.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-18
T2WALKER, SamENG18-15
T2PAVAN, AndreaITA18-15
T2TILEY, StevenENG18-15
T2AN, Byeong-hunKOR18-15
T6MADDY, PaulENG18-12
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