Scott Henry showed courage to have a “tough conversation” with Ian Rae after deciding he needed to split with his long-time coach around a month ago. Now he’s aiming to be equally gutsy over the next four days as the talented 28-year-old bids to secure a European Tour return.
While two of his compatriots – tenth-ranked Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary, lying 11th – are in card-winning positions heading into the Challenge Tour Grand Final in Oman, Henry slipped out of the top 15 just as the second-tier circuit was reaching the business end.
His second-place finish in the rescheduled Madeira Islands Open in early August has since been undone by four missed cuts in the last five events, leaving the Clydebank man sitting 20th heading into the season-ending event at Almouj Golf in Muscat.
Henry trails 15th-placed American John Hahn by around £5250, meaning that he needs to finish no lower than tenth in an event featuring the circuit’s top 45 players this season, a group that also includes George Murray and Peter Whiteford in a five-strong Scottish contingent.
“It’s disappointing that I’ve slipped out of the top 15 in the last couple of months, especially as the same thing happened last year after I’d also finished second in Madeira,” Henry told The Scotsman on the eve of the £270,000 event.
“It’s not been a good run for me, but my game is starting to feel better again as the changes I’ve made since leaving Ian Rae to work with a new coach, Andrew Nicholson (who works with European Tour player Chris Paisley and is based at the David Leadbetter Golf Academy at The Wynyard in County Durham), start to feel natural.
“It was the first time basically in my career that I had changed coach and it was a tough conversation to have with Ian as he’s been such a great supporter of me and my golf.
“I learned so much from him, not just about the golf swing but also how to get a ball around the course. “He really helped me progress to get the European Tour card the first time (in 2013, when Henry fell just five spots short of hanging on to his card), but the last couple of years I’ve started to feel I could do with freshening things up a bit.”
Among those either just above or slightly below the Scot on the Road to Oman rankings are highly-rated South African Brandon Stone, this season’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge winner Jack Senior and Daan Huizing, the young Dutchman who set the amateur scene alight before his switch to the paid ranks.
“I’m well within striking distance of a card and it’s a pretty easy mindset for me this week, really,” insisted Henry, who won the Kazakhstan Open three years ago. You simply have to come here knowing you need to play well and I’d say I would be feeling more pressure if I was sitting tenth or 11th on the rankings.”
McLeary, who chalked up his third win on the circuit in Belgium back in June, has a cushion of around £3800 on 16th-placed Mads Sogaard from Denmark, but Fife duo Murray and Whiteford really need to land the £45,000 top prize on Saturday as they are lying 37th and 45th respectively.