If Scotland is the ‘Home of Golf’, then the country’s esteemed golf journalists present at this week’s Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts are the welcoming hosts who fawn over and pamper their guest as if it were Elvis himself in the front porch.
The tournament, now in its ninth year, has grown to become one of the most prestigious on the European Challenge Tour schedule and its resounding success is no small part thanks to the huge coverage it receives in the Scottish newspapers, both national and local alike.
Every day, pages and pages of coverage are dedicated to the Scottish Hydro Challenge in the daily newspapers, bringing the profile of the event to a new level - a level unparalleled on European golf’s second tier tour.
This week, Scottish sports journalism veteran Jim Black (@JimBlack01), the Scotsman’s Martin Dempster (@DempsterMartin), the Press and Journal’s Dave Edwards, Jock MacVicar of the Scottish Express, the Herald’s Nick Rodger (@NickRodger1) and Steve Scott (@C_SScott) of the Courier are all filing their musings from Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club with a typical mix of in-depth knowledge, intriguing analysis and a dash of the unmistakable Scottish wit.
They have all been delighted and proud to watch the tournament grow to the thriving entity it has become, with another four years to come after the exciting announcement that the event is to continue to 2018. MacVicar, one of the most well-known and highly respected journalists in the game, thinks it will only get bigger.
“I’ve been to almost every one of them since 2006,” said MacVicar, who has also reported on over 50 Open Championships. “In fact, I played with Sandy Lyle in the pro-am that year and nearly wrecked my golf trolley. I left something in the clubhouse and dashed back to get it and on the way back to the first tee, I rammed it into a fence!
“The tournament has since then grown out of all recognition. We didn’t really know much about the event at the start, or the players.
“The event really established itself up here in Aviemore though. This is the place for it, especially at this golf course. It’s a great course and this year it has been in the best condition I’ve ever seen it. It’s maturing and the new clubhouse has given it a real central hub. It’s a magnificent building with a great view and the coverage the event gets now is excellent.”
Dempster, who has previously worked as editor at Scotland’s top golf magazine Bunkered, thinks the tournament has raised the profile of the Challenge Tour in Scotland to a level not seen in any other golfing nation.
“Since this event came on the scene, the awareness of the Challenge Tour has been raised an awful lot in Scotland,” he said. “There’s a great opportunity for the Scots in the field, a lot of them probably getting their first experience at this level.
“The fact that they’re getting that opportunity can only be helpful. I think the great thing about this tournament is that it gives Scottish people a great chance to see the future stars of world golf. Brooks Koepka and Edoardo Molinari have played here and this week we might see someone else.
“We’ve seen Moritz Lampert this week and he might be the next star. These boys are coming over to Scotland and love playing here, so long may it continue.”
Of course, not only does the Challenge Tour provide fans with the opportunity to see the future stars but it also gives the journalists themselves a unique chance to build relationships with the young players before they hit the big time.
Rodger, who worked as an assistant press officer at The Open Championship for over ten years before joining the Herald in 2011, has seen many a future superstar at close quarters at the Scottish Hydro Challenge down the years and relishes the experience of watching them without the swarming crowds and the guarded entourages of The European Tour.
“In the amateur game you get to see the young players but the Challenge Tour, in many ways, is more close and personal,” he said. “There’s nothing better than seeing them and getting a sense that they are something special.
“Like that weekend when Brooks Koepka won, it’s great when you can say you were there right at the start. We’d bump into him at a European Tour tournament now and he’d say hello, that’s great stuff.
“He’s off playing massive events now but it’s great to be involved in something like that scenario, when you were there before they become household names.
“The Challenge Tour has always been like this. It’s a great benefit to be able to cast an eye over some of the good players coming through and build some kind of relationship at this level before they flourish in years to come.”
The Challenge Tour is ‘Where Heroes Are Made’ and in many ways these Scottish scribes are ‘the makers’, as they continue to build the profile of the players and put their names on the lips of fans in one of the most knowledgeable golfing nations in the world.
For Martin Dempster's Third Round Scottish Hydro Challenge report for the Scotsman, click here.
For Nick Rodger's Third Round Scottish Hydro Challenge report for The Herald, click here.
For Steve Scott's Third Round Scottish Hydro Challenge Report for The Courier, click here.