Scott Henry’s stag party in Tenerife this weekend will now be a double celebration after the Clydebank man secured a welcome return to the European Tour next season by passing the Qualifying School test in Spain with flying colours.
The 29-year-old, who is marrying double Ladies European Tour winner Kylie Walker next month, finished joint-second in the six-round slog after signing off with a five-under-par 67 at PGA Catalunya in Girona for a 12-under-par 416 aggregate.
A bogey-bogey finished prevented Henry from finishing top of the class as that honour, and with it a cheque for £13,700, went to Englishman Nathan Kimsey, but it was mission accomplished for the two-time Scottish Boys champion as he regained the card he lost at the end of the 2013 season.
“It’s awesome,” admitted Henry of securing his return to European golf’s top table on the eve of him heading to Tenerife to join up with a 12-strong group of family and friends for the aforementioned stag do before trying the knot with Walker, his long-time girlfriend, on 29 December.
On his eighth visit to the Qualifying School final, Henry opened with a stunning 64 but had slipped outside the all-important top 25 and ties after then adding scores of 75, 70 and 72. A 68 in the penultimate round lifted him back into a card-winning position and he was never in danger of letting that slip in the final circuit. Out in two-under 34, the former Scottish Stroke-Play champion birdied the 12th and 13th before following an eagle-3 at the 15th with a birdie at the 16th to catapult himself into a two-shot lead.
A 5-5 finish on the Stadium Course may not have been what he was looking for – it left him alongside Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez (64) and Italian Edoardo Molinari (74) as the trio finished a shot behind Kimsey following his closing 70 – but he was delighted nonetheless. And so he should be. Henry is the first Scot since Alastair Forsyth and Jack Doherty in 2013 to pass this toughest of golfing examinations. In doing so, he’ll be the youngest of nine Scottish card holders on the European Tour next season, claiming that mantle from 31-year-old Russell Knox.
“It’s been a long week, as it always is here,” said Henry. “We had a couple of tough days with the wind and I just hung in. I didn’t bring my best game this week. Even in the first round, I wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but I managed to force a good score.
“There’s so much that can happen in six rounds of golf that you just have to keep going. I felt that in the first four rounds I got next to nothing out of my game. Then to shoot four-under yesterday then five-under today with bogey-bogey finish knowing that I had the cushion, it was very special to play as well as that.
“This is definitely the most pressure I’ve ever played golf under. I’ve had the odd opportunity to compete to win on the main Tour, having a couple of seconds and just missing out on a play-off in the Johnnie Walker at Gleneagles [in 2013].
“That’s the kind of pressure you want. That’s where you want to be. You don’t want to be out here. No offence to the Challenge Tour, but I absolutely despise playing it. That was my biggest incentive for pushing on and getting my European Tour card. To be playing on the main Tour next year on proper golf courses like this, which suit my game, is exciting for me. I just can’t wait to phone my family now and then celebrate with the boys over the next few days – hopefully I can survive the stag do.”
As the three other Scots – Ross Kellett, David Law and Bradley Neil – all came up short, Kimsey took pride of place among 30 card winners in total. They included no less than 14 Englishman – Tom Lewis, Eddie Pepperell and Ashley Chesters were among them – six Swedes and former US PGA champion Y E Yang.