Two former amateur stars, Byeong-hun An of Korea and Alan Dunbar of Northern Ireland, smashed the course record at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club as they carded nine under par rounds of 62 to share the clubhouse lead at the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts.The Challenge Tour is regarded as the best school for young fledgling professionals to hone the skills unearthed in the amateur arena and this was certainly a case of promising young stars coming of age.
In an incredible morning at the Aviemore venue in Northern Scotland, last year’s Amateur Champion Dunbar bogeyed his opening two holes having teed off at the 11th hole.That did not deter the 23 year old, however, as he fired 11 birdies thereafter to storm into the lead early on in the opening day of one of the Challenge Tour’s flagship events.
“I was in just the zone,” said Dunbar, who won the Amateur Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland. “I’ve been playing well all year now, shooting good scores but missing the cut by a couple of shots. It’s good to put it all together and have a strong round.“It’s a tough start, starting on 11. It a tough opening hole and 12 is tough too. I missed the first two greens and made two bogeys so it was a really good 62.
“I panicked a wee bit after the bogeys to be honest because the longer it goes on the harder it is to get it back. Shooting level par is not really good enough on the Challenge Tour, so it’s nice to get something going.“I felt like a round like this was coming. I have been saying to my coach that I am playing well, and most of my rounds could easily have been four or five better. Even after the start I was confident of hitting good shots.”
Barely 30 minutes after Dunbar came in with that record-breaking score, the 2009 US Amateur Open Champion – who beat Danny Lee’s record to become the youngest winner of the famous event – also signed for a 62.
In contrast to Dunbar, An did not card a single bogey as he shot nine birdies on the way to his lowest round as a professional.“I really like this course but it’s actually fairly hard. There are some hard holes. It is pretty long and get pretty tough if you don’t drive it very well. I missed the cut last year but this year I guess it suits me better.
“The weather definitely helps, it’s a lot better than last year. It was raining this morning, but it’s nice now. There was no wind, it was calm and just a little rain but a lot better than last year, I think that helps.
“I was never thinking about 59 to be honest. I fired well on the front nine but the back nine is definitely harder. I just wanted to make par on the harder holes – 11 and 12 are the hardest - just get through those holes and see what happens."Sebi Garcia was a shot back after carding an eight under par 63 while there were three players three shots further back on six under par, including former Challenge Tour Grand Final winner Andrea Pavan.