After a disapppointing campaign last year on the PGA EuroPro Tour, Scottish golfers are wasting no time trying to make their mark on the circuit this season. Jamie McLeary already topped the class at the Qualifying School and now two of his compatriots, Neil Fenwick and John Henry, are in the mix in the first of 15 regular events on the schedule.
Heading into the final round of The Lookers Championship, which is taking place at Close House in Northumberland, the pair are sitting joint third on five under, two shots behind Irishman Dermot McElroy in the battle for a £10,000 top prize and the chance to make a fast start in the race for five Challenge Tour spots next season.
Fenwick finished 16th then tenth on the money-list in 2014 and 2015 before slipping to 30th last season, when Paul McKechnie was the top Scot in 27th spot, one above Henry. It’s been more like it from Fenwick, though, as he has opened the new campaign with rounds of 68 and 69.
“I’m really feeling a lot more relaxed this year as our 15-month-old son, Louie, has settled into a routine now,” said the former Dunfermline Athletic defender. “My game was poor last year, but I have made a couple of changes and really worked hard this winter and it feels great.”
His goal – Henry’s too – is to get the Saltire flying high on leaderboards again on a circuit via which Craig Lee and Duncan Stewart used to earn a crack at the European Tour, and where Elliott Saltman topped the money list as recently as 2014.
“I will be trying to win the Order of Merit to move up the ladder,” added Fenwick, who is attached to Dunbar, where he did his PGA training under Jacky Montgomery. “I believe I have the game; I just need to not be so hard on myself and produce the goods.”
Henry is trying to emulate his older brother, Scott, by using the PGA EuroPro Tour to move to the next rung on the ladder. “I’m feeling pretty good after the first two days at work of the year,” he said, having finished eagle-birdie in his opening 71 then picking up four birdies in five holes around the turn as he added a 67. “My aspirations for the year are to get my first win on the circuit and to finish in the top five in the Order of Merit.”
Elsewhere, Richie Ramsay, Stephen Gallacher and David Drysdale all carded 71s as Frenchman Alexander Levy made an ominous start in the Volvo China Open. Levy, who finished in the top 30 in each of his last seven appearances in China, including a win in this event in 2014, carded nine birdies in a flawless 63 at Topwin Golf & Country Club in Beijing to establish a one-shot lead over Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal.
“I played really good golf at the weekend, shooting eight under and three under the last (two) rounds,” said Levy of finishing eighth behind Bernd Wiesberger in the Shenzhen International. “I tried to follow what I did last week and I followed it pretty well. I like the golf courses in China but the golf is different day after day and I will try my best this week to do like what I did today.”
Anthony Wall marked his 500th European Tour appearance with the same score as those three Scots in the field to sit just outside the top 40. “My first event was down in South Africa, which I won I think three years later,” said Wall, who ended the longest run between two wins in European Tour history when he triumphed in the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play at Archerfield Links last year. “I wasn’t at the races that first week but I’ve learned and stuck at it to make a decent career.”