You really wouldn’t want to be trying to follow in Brooks Koepka’s spikemarks. In the three years since the American announced his arrival on the scene by living up to a huge billing as he won the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore, he has rocketed into the world’s top 20 and is now set for a Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in September.
Only time will tell if his younger brother can reach the same lofty heights in the game, but Chase Koepka certainly has the name to do some catching up and, for starters, he sets out at Macdonald Spey Valley today trying to complete a family double at the Challenge Tour’s traditional Scottish stop. “I’m 22, having just finished at the University of South Florida,” said Koepka jnr, who watched his big brother use the European Tour’s feeder circuit to become accustomed to a different style of golf than the staple diet in the US and is now licking his lips over that same prospect.
“Brooks has given me lots of good advice about coming over here and, having just started out playing professional golf, I really think the Challenge Tour is going to be a good spot for me. I’m going to try and play over here in Europe as much as I can and have also secured starts in Denmark and Slovakia,” he added.
On his visit here, Koepka snr secured instant promotion to the European Tour by securing his third win of the season. He topped the Open qualifying at Sunningdale the following day and has never looked back, recording victories on both the European Tour and PGA Tour.
“He was very confident, which is one of the things that really helped him when he was starting out,” observed Koepka jnr, who has been paired with Duncan Stewart, the top Scot on the Challenge Tour this season, and talented Frenchman Romain Langasque in the opening two rounds in the Highlands.
“He always showed he had that confidence to go out and win, but to go out and do it is a different thing. He’s got one heulluva game. He is very, very long, and he’s very athletic. I don’t know what happened to me! I don’t hit the ball as long as him, not too many people do. I’m very good around the greens and straight off the tee. We play a little bit of a different type of game. But, you know, we both do well at what we do and my ambition is to do something like what he did. I’m over here to learn how to play professional golf and just enjoy the experience.”
Stewart, who chalked up his maiden Challenge Tour win in Madrid earlier in the year, heads into his home event – the 32-year-old hails from nearby Grantown-on-Spey though he now lives in Edinburgh – sitting fifth in the Road to Oman rankings. Victory this weekend would leave him sitting pretty in the battle to finish in the top 15 and secure a European Tour spot next season.
“It’s always good to win your home event, but it would be fantastic to win this week and that would pretty much seal the deal for next year as well,” admitted Stewart, who spearheads a strong Scottish contingent that also includes fellow Challenge Tour campaigners in David Law, Scott Henry, Peter Whiteford and the 2010 winner here, George Murray.
Joining them in an event worth close to £200,000 are a posse of home players who have secured invitations. Among those on that list are Texas-based Royal Burgess man James Ross and Orkney-born Craig Sutherland, who qualified for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane last summer.
The field also includes four Scottish amateurs as Amateur Championship runner-up Bob MacIntyre and Connor Syme join Ewen Ferguson and Grant Forrest in getting the chance to pick up some ranking points for next year as well as gaining valuable experience playing against some of the world’s top upcoming professionals.