Old pals’ act still exists between Duncan Stewart and Russell Knox

Duncan Stewart in action during the Challenge de Madrid. Picture: Getty Images
Duncan Stewart in action during the Challenge de Madrid. Picture: Getty Images
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Duncan Stewart’s last-round surge to a maiden Challenge Tour triumph in Madrid was being followed on the other side of the Atlantic - by Scottish No 1 Russell Knox.

The pair are good friends, having come through the amateur ranks around the same time before spending four years together at Jacksonville University.

Knox may now be chasing major titles to add to the WGC crown he claimed in China last November, but it didn’t stop him seeing that Stewart had recorded a notable win of his own last weekend.

“When I spoke to my mum and dad, they told me that Russ had FaceTimed literally as I was holing the winning putt so he was obviously following what was going on,” said Stewart of his Challenge de Madrid victory.

“I’ve actually been trying to speak to him so that I can hear all about The Masters and I am sure we’ll get round to catching up soon.”

Like Knox, Stewart still looks back on the time the pair spent at Jacksonville University as being pivotal as far as their careers have been concerned.

Indeed, it was an old swing thought from Mike Flemming, their coach during that spell, that helped the 31-year-old shoot up to fourth in the Challenge Tour’s Road to Oman on the back of his success last Sunday.

“It was massive,” he admitted. “I was a week away from going to New Zealand to travel with four mates for a year when Russ went out to Jacksonville and suggested I should go out, too.

“We were inseparable for four years. We pushed each other, which was great. Also, if it wasn’t for him I’d never have graduated.

“Mike Flemming was a brilliant coach, as Russ has said himself. My strength is driving and an old swing thought from Mike came to me on the range in Madrid.

“I almost sent Russ a text to say ‘what do you think of this’, but I just went with it and I’m glad I did.”

Stewart has travelled to Belek for this week’s Turkish Airlines Challenge at Gloria Golf Club with his partner, Fiona, and their young son, Jack.

In less than a week, he’s gone from needing an invitation to play on the second-tier circuit to being guaranteed starts for the next two seasons.

“I think it sunk in last night because I didn’t sleep much and yet the wee man had a good sleep,” said the Grantown-on-Spey man, smiling.

Also smiling, by the sounds of things, are two lucky punters - one of whom just happens to be Stewart’s dad.

“I know two people who had money on me last week at 250-1,” he revealed. “One made over three grand and my old man won £1,500, so that’s maybe me even with him over the last two years!”