Less than a fortnight after 21-year-old Neil earned his step up to the main circuit by finishing in the top 15 on this season’s Challenge Tour, Syme handed Scottish golf another huge boost with a polished performance in the six-round marathon.
Up against a posse of players with European Tour wins under their belts, the 22-year-old from Drumoig finished joint ninth out of 156 card hopefuls at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona after closing with a 69 for a 17-under-par aggregate.
“To get full status on the European Tour is amazing – I am absolutely delighted about that,” said Syme, who only turned professional in the middle of September. “It is just mental. It’s been an amazing few months and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to test myself against the best players in the world. It is going to be cool.
“To be honest, halfway through the year I wasn’t even sure I was going to be turning pro but a few months down the line I’ve got a full European Tour card. It’s crazy and I can’t wait to get going.”
Syme, who’d catapulted himself into contention on the back of a 63 in the third round before backing that up with two 67s, started birdie-birdie for the second day running and was either sitting second or third for most of the last round. He then had his first double-bogey all week at the par-4 15th but three solid pars to finish ensured he got the job done with a bit to spare as the cut-off for the top 25 and ties fell at 13-under.
“It was a bit more stressful than I would have liked after I made double on 15 due to one silly club selection, but it’s been a brilliant week,” added the former Australian Amateur champion.
It was a superb effort from Syme as he maintained the sparkling form that had seen him chalk up top-15 finishes in both the Portugal Masters and Dunhill Links through invitations before earning his Race to Dubai status in 2018.
“It’s been great to have a few opportunities already and that definitely gave me confidence coming into this week that I can compete at this level,” he admitted. “The Dunhill was a strong field and to get top 15 there was great. I’m happy with where my game is at.”
Syme is likely to start his 2018 campaign in either the Australian PGA Championship or Mauritius Open in a fortnight’s time.“I’m pretty exhausted right now after that [playing in a six-round event] but we’ll get a schedule together and I am looking forward to getting going,” he said.
Two other Scots in the card mix heading into the final round, Oban’s Robert MacIntyre and Aberdonian David Law, fell two and three shots short respectively in an event won by Englishman Sam Horsfield, who finished eight shots clear of the field after a closing 63 for a 27-under total.
It was a praiseworthy effort, nonetheless, from 21-year-old MacIntyre and the left-hander will take huge confidence from both this and winning on the MENA Tour in Kuwait in just his second start as a pro when he embarks on a Challenge Tour campaign next season. Law will also have to be content with playing mainly on the Challenge Tour in 2018 and, having finished this season playing some good golf, the start of the new second-tier circuit campaign won’t come quick enough for him, either.
Scott Henry, the fourth Scot out of nine hopefuls at the start to make the 72-hole cut, was left to rue a damaging 78 in his opening round last Saturday. In signing off with a 68, Henry was 14-under for his final five rounds but the Clydebank man finished joint 54th on eight-under.