THE double success of Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary in securing European Tour cards next season was tempered by a third tartan hopeful, Scott Henry, agonisingly missing out in Oman.
As the dust settled on a dramatic NBO Classic Challenge Tour Grand Final at Almouj Golf in Muscat, McArthur and McLeary were among the 15 graduates to the main circuit after finishing 12th and 15th respectively.
For McArthur, it was a just reward for chiselling away at the coalface for ten years as he secured full playing rights for the European Tour for the first time.
Whereas the 36-year-old Glaswegian only got 19 starts in 2010 after finishing 17th on the Challenge Tour money-list the previous season, he’ll get into most tournaments next year, including the BMW PGA Championship and the Scottish Open.
“It’s great to be back on the European Tour and will be my first real go at a full season,” said the 2002 Scottish Amateur champion, who slipped two spots from where he started the year-ending event but had around £3,200 in hand over 16th-placed Ryan Fox from New Zealand after signing off with a 72 to finish joint-30th.
Eleventh on the money-list when he headed out on Wednesday, McLeary left himself as a sitting target following a damaging first-round 78.
The 34-year-old slipped out of the top 15 at one point on a dramatic last day in the Middle East before securing the last card for the second time in three years.
He struggled in his rookie season in 2014, finishing 152nd in the Race to Dubai, but is heading back to the top table believing his game is better equipped for the challenge.
“I did notice that I’d dropped out, but I felt I was going to be unlucky to miss out,” said McLeary, heaving a sigh of relief that finishing 43rd in a 45-man field had not proved costly.
“At the start of the season you don’t care if you finished first or 15th – it’s about getting a card and I’m excited to be going back on to the European Tour.”
It was impossible not to feel sorry for Henry after the 28-year-old came up just short in his bid to make it a triple celebration.
Under intense pressure on a difficult Greg Norman-designed golf course, he closed with a flawless five-under-par 67 to finish joint-seventh on nine-under in an event won by Ricardo Gouveia from Portugal.
At the time he signed his card, Henry was sitting one outside the card-winning zone before finishing 18th on the standings. In the end, he was just £2,263 short of McLeary’s haul for the season.
“This was the most important round of my life and I can’t ask any more from myself,” said Henry, who came within a handful of places of retaining a card in his rookie season on the main Tour in 2013.
“If you’d said to me at the start, ‘if you go out and shoot five-under, will you get your card?’, I’d have said ‘yes’ and paid you 15 grand for it. Unfortunately for me, the conditions were a little more friendly today than Friday.
“It’s disappointing to have come so close, but I will never forgot how I handled myself out there today.”
After a closing 69 – his best effort of the week – George Murray finished joint-24th in the event but dropped two spots to 39th in the final rankings, where fellow Fifer Peter Whiteford was unable to improve on 45th after he signed off with a 72 for a share of 30th.
Helped by five birdies in a row on the back nine, Gouveia clinched the money-list title in style with a one-shot victory, closing with a 65 for a 13-under-par total to claim his second Challenge Tour title of the season and third in total.
Rhys Davies, who was born in Edinburgh but represents Wales, cemented his position in the top 15 with a top-10 finish, but there was heartache for Fox, American duo John Hahn and Daniel Im and South African Haydn Porteous.
They were all knocked out in the last event by Danish duo Joachim B Hansen and Jeff Winther, England’s Callum Shinkwin and South African Brandon Stone.