8am Round-Up: Scottish Open to stage Hero Challenge event

Alexander Levy. Picture: Getty
Alexander Levy. Picture: Getty
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This year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links is to stage the European Tour’s second Hero Challenge, a one-hole innovative knock-out contest.

The exciting news was revealed by chief executive Keith Pelley in the build up to the 81st Masters at last night’s European Tour Dinner at Augusta Country Club last night.

Picture: submitted

Picture: submitted

The first Hero Challenge was held before the British Masters at The Grove last October, when eight players went head-to-head in straight knock-out matches.

Won by Frenchman Alexander Levy in a contest that was concluded in less than an hour, it took place under floodlights.

That option won’t be available in the height of summer in Scotland unless it starts at 11pm, but it is undoubtedly an added attraction for fans at the £7 million Rolex Series event.

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“The Hero Challenge at the British Masters gained more social media interest than the four days of the event,” said Pelley as he announced plans for three such contests for the 2017 schedule.

The second one will again take place at the British Masters, which is being held this year at Close House, west of Newcastle, at the end of September.

An all-singing, all-dancing event will then be staged at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November.

Pelley also revealed at the long-standing dinner, which was attended by media representatives from 13 countries as well as European captain Thomas Bjorn, that next year’s opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup in France is set to include a pop concert for the first time.

It is understood that a series of gigs will be held during the week when Le Golf National outside Paris stages the second contest to be held in Continental Europe.

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Host Danny Willett hailed last night’s Masters Champions Dinner as “incredible” as he served up a “taste of Yorkshire” to 33 fellow winners at Augusta National.

As the defending champion, the Englishman got to decide what was on the menu for the event and remained true to his roots.

He chose mini cottage pies to start, followed by a traditional Sunday roast - complete with Yorkshire puddings and gravy - and apple crumble and vanilla custard for dessert.

“Champions dinner tonight was incredible!!!” tweeted Willett afterwards. “Thank you to all at @TheMasters and all past champions who attended. #honoured #Augusta”

Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, also took the social media site to praise Willett for his input into one of the week’s great traditions.

“What a fantastic night, words can’t describe, well done Danny!” wrote the South African.

Three-time Masters champion Tiger Woods said the night had been “excellent”. Also on Twitter, he added: “Good friends and great memories.”

However, the former world No 1, who is an absentee this week due to the fact he is not “tournament ready” due to back trouble, came under fire for posting that message along with an image of his new book, ‘The 1997 Masters’.

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Scot John Heggarty has joined a distinguished band that includes Sir Henry Cotton, Peter Alliss, Dave Thomas and Dai Rees by becoming PGA captain.

The 58-year-old, who hails from Dumfries-shire and is the PGA pro at Royal Liverpool, succeeds Nicky Lumb and will serve as the association’s captain for the next two years.

“Ultimately when you become captain of the PGA you are treading in the footsteps of PGA professionals that are names from the history of the game so it is a tremendous honour,” said Heggarty.

“I turned professional in 1976, the year Dai Rees was PGA captain. As well as being one of the best players of his time Mr Rees was five times Ryder Cup captain.

“And, if further proof was needed reading the other names on the list of captains clearly crystallises the honour that has been bestowed on me.

“I can only aspire to carry out my duties to the best of my ability - I will do my utmost to maintain the values set out by our founding members and subsequently maintained by the past captains of the PGA.”

Heggarty’s first assistant’s role was at Hayston before moving to Shaw Park in Alloa. He then moved south to become an assistant to John Morgan at Royal Liverpool and has been head pro at The Open venue since he was just 23.

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Irishman Stuart Grehan won the R&A Foundation Scholars Tournament at St Andrews but had already secured the Palmer Cup place up for grabs in the event.

The Maynooth man closed with 72 over the Old Course for a nine-under-par total, winning by three shots from one of his team-mates, John Murphy, as well as Stirling’s Laird Shepherd.

Grehan, the highest-ranked player in the field, had already secured a spot on Europe’s Palmer Cup side in Atlanta, where Scot David Inglis will lead the visitors in the college equivalent of the Ryder Cup in June.

Exeter’s Emily Toy won the women’s event, carding a last-round five-under 68 on the Eden Course to finish two shots clear of the field on 214.

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Entries have already been received from 12 different countries for the inaugural World Masters Golf Championship.

Launched in January, the event promises to be a truly cosmopolitan celebration of golf, with entries extended to 31 May.

“The idea is to stage an annual celebration of golf with a top-quality championship for club-level amateur golfers here at the home of golf, playing competitive golf in a fun, social environment on some of the world’s leading golf courses,” said joint-organiser and former Scottish Golf chief executive Hamish Grey.

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One of the PGA’s most popular and keenly contested tournaments, the Pro-Captain Challenge, is set to break new ground by holding the final in Africa for the first time.

Hundreds of pairs comprising a PGA pro and his or her club captain will compete in the tournament’s qualifiers aiming to book one of 10 places available in this year’s final in Morocco at the Gary Player-designed course at Mazagan Beach and Golf Resort in El Jadida.