Challenge Tour winner George Murray returns to amateur ranks

Twelve years after winning the Scottish Challenge in Aviemore, George Murray is making his first competitive appearance as a reinstated amateur this weekend.

The 38-year-old is in the Fife team set to take on West Lothian at Lundin Links in the title decider in this season’s Fife & Lothians Winter League.

Anstruther man Murray won the Scottish Boys’ Under-16 Open in 1999 before being crowned as Scottish Amateur champion five years later at Gullane.

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He turned professional in 2006 and, helped by that Challenge Tour title triumph at Spey Valley, graduated to the European Tour in 2011.

George Murray in action during the 2016 Challenge de Madrid at the Real Club de Golf La Herreria in Madrid. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images.

The highlight of his rookie season came on Fife soil as he finished third in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship behind Michael Hoey and Rory McIlroy.

Murray held on to his card for the following year by finishing 81st in the Race to Dubai before finding himself back on the Challenge Tour in 2013 then quitting as a tour pro at the end of the 2016 campaign. He is now a fish merchant and sells fish around Edinburgh.

“This will be George’s first game back for us since he got his amateur status back,” said Fife team manager Derek Paton of Sunday’s clash with West Lothian.

Fife top the table after two wins out of two, including a 5-0 victory over Midlothian in the most recent round of matches at Craigielaw.

Among those joining forces with Murray at Lundin Links are two other former Scottish internationals, James White and Scott Crichton.

“It’s a very strong Fife team and hopefully they will bring the win and the title home on Sunday,” added Paton, the current Irish Senior Open Amateur champion.

“Being captain of Fife has been a very enjoyable experience so far and the enthusiasm shown by the team has been very encouraging.”

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West Lothian are the defending champions and team manager Ross Mallon reckons his players are relishing the opportunity to spoil a Fife party on home turf.

“We know that Fife are a very good team,” he said. “However, we, too, are strong with a good mix of experience in players such as Bathgate pair Scott McCandless and Graham Bell, West Lothian’s Barrie Lewis and Michael Wilson from Kingsfield.

“I like to keep my cards close to my chest, but there are a few new faces from the side that got the half match against East at Craigielaw a few weeks ago.

“The pairings will be critical, but, as always, the golf will do the talking and I firmly believe in the squad selected to bring back the win.”

In a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, East Lothian face Midlothian in the other match at the same venue on Sunday.

Still on the team front, this weekend also sees the Mary McKenna Trophy, a senior women’s match between Ireland and Scotland, taking place at Roganstown Golf & Country Club in Dublin.

Elaine Moffat, the Scottish Veteran Ladies champion, spearheads a Scottish side that also includes 1994 Women’s Amateur champion Alison Davidson.

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Joining forces with them across the Irish Sea are Karen Ferguson Sneddon, Anne Hanson, Gillian, Susie Macleod, Lorna McKinlay and Sheena Wood.

Lesley Lloyd is the reserve, with the team being captained by Fiona de Vries.

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