Chase Koepka admits he has big shoes to fill as he arrives at the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels & Resorts.
The American’s brother Brooks starred in the 2013 edition of the tournament, breaking the course record at Macdonald Spey Valley GC en route to claiming a three-shot victory – his third win of the season which secured immediate promotion to the European Tour.
Four years on from his Scottish Highlands triumph and Brooks is a Major Champion after his record-breaking U.S. Open performance at Erin Hills – where he equalled Rory McIlroy’s lowest score in relation to par.
Chase, at 23 four years his brother’s junior, is still adapting to life in paid ranks and has enjoyed a fine start on the 2017 Road to Oman.
After two top five finishes in five Challenge Tour outings this season, Chase believes he is close to joining Brooks as a winner on Europe’s top developmental tour – and has the same high aspirations as his brother.
“I do feel like I can follow Brooks to the top of the game,” he said. “I think my game is quite strong, my short game in particular and how accurate I am off the tee, so I just need to keep playing well and shooting low numbers.
“This year I’m playing a lot better than last year, and I feel that there has been of bit of an adjustment period for me. I played at a lot of different golf courses and I felt as though it took me a while to get used to everything, but this year I feel like my game is good enough to compete out here.
“At the beginning I wasn’t playing as well as I liked and I was a bit hard on myself. But I felt as though the courses over here suited me, so that’s why I stuck with it.”
For Chase, the decision to begin his career in Europe was a simple one. With Brooks’ transition from four-time Challenge Tour champion to top ten player in the world well known, Chase admits he often turns to his big brother for advice.
“It is quite nice because he sets a very high bar which pushes me to keep on going,” he said. “He has been such a big mentor for me, especially pushing me to come and play in Europe, and to see him keep on doing well and to be top ten in the world is quite special.
“He pushes me quite a bit, but I’m okay with that, and I know he wants the best for me. He thought the best option for me was to come over and play.
“It was great to play with Brooks earlier this year. I learnt a lot about myself and where I need to get better. Being in such a high pressure situation I felt as though I handled myself quite well, and to be up at the top of the leaderboard was a very nice experience – especially in my first PGA Tour event.”
Chase returns to Aviemore with fond memories, having made his first professional start here last season.
“I had such a warm welcome when I came here last year,” he said. “Everyone speaks so highly of my brother, telling me stories of when they watched him play and shoot that lovely 62. I get reminded of it every time I walk into the clubhouse too!
“I sent him a message yesterday saying ‘I feel like everywhere I go to you have a course record’. He has left his foot prints, they are certainly big foot prints, but I don’t mind. It is awesome to see that he won here and that sealed his promotion from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour.
“It was my first pro event and while I didn’t play too well I do have a lot of good memories from here, but hopefully if play better I can make some better memories this year.”