While it’s an achievement that needs to be kept in perspective at a time when Matthew Fitzpatrick is winning an event such as the DP World Tour Championship at just 22, Scott Henry’s success in securing his European Tour return through finishing joint-second in the Qualifying School in Spain is something to feel genuinely excited about from a Scottish viewpoint.
For starters, it means we’ll have a player in his 20s back representing the home of golf on the circuit when the new season gets under way next week, though not for long as Henry turns 30 just after the start of the Desert Swing in mid-January.
The first Scot to pass the test in three years, his card success at PGA Catalunya in Girona has increased the Caledonian contingent for the 2017 campaign to nine. He joins Russell Knox, Richie Ramsay, Marc Warren, David Drysdale, Scott Jamieson, Paul Lawrie, Stephen Gallacher and Challenge Tour graduate Duncan Stewart in flying the Saltire on the main European circuit.
It’s a second bite at that particular cherry for Henry, who wasn’t too far away from retaining his seat at the top table first time around. Helped by a rousing display on home soil that saw him claim fourth spot in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, he finished 120th in the 2013 Race to Dubai. He certainly wasn’t out of his depth and, as the Clydebank man prepares to step back on to the top Tour in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa next week, he is ready to start making up for lost time. A bit like Marc Warren when he found himself in the same position a few years back, Henry hasn’t enjoyed being at the Challenge Tour coalface over the past three seasons.
“No offence to the Challenge Tour, but I absolutely despise playing it,” said the two-time Scottish Boys champion immediately after claiming the third card among 30 players in total to come through the gruelling six-round test with a top-tier status. “That was my biggest incentive for pushing on and getting my European Tour card. To be playing on the main Tour next season on proper golf courses, which suit my game, is exciting for me.”
As he said, Henry isn’t being disrespectful to the feeder circuit and there’s no reason to be when you consider that three Road to Oman graduates from 12 months ago – Ricardo Gouevia, Nacho Elvira and Brandon Stone – all played in last week’s DP World Tour Championship after finishing in the top 60 in this season’s Race to Dubai. They may be rookies in name, but boy do they hit the ground running at the top level these days.
Henry’s point is that he believes his game is better eqipped for longer and tougher tests, a view shared by Ian Rae. The man who coached Henry for a long time was replaced by Andrew Nicholson last year, but there’s no hint of bitterness whatsoever. Indeed, Rae was one of the first to congratulate Henry on getting his card back and is excited about what lies ahead for him. “Scott has always been a great player with an excellent all-round game,” he said. “And, with his power, he is an ideal player to make it on Tour.”
Like so many others, Henry has been supported in trying to reach the top of the golfing ladder by Aberdeen Asset Management. Stephen Docherty works for them but is also heavily involved in trying to help developing talent in his role as Scottish Golf’s non-executive performance director. He likes what he sees in Henry, and not just as a golfer. “We like to sponsor good, open and down-to-earth people at the grass roots and that sums up Scotty nicely,” said Doherty. “He is kind of like the boy next door –thoughtful, considerate and always trying to get better. Like everyone else, he has his ups and downs but he’s always happy to listen to advice – and it’s not always about golf.
“At the end of the 2015 season, we met and after just missing out on his card through the Challenge Tour Order of Merit and then the Tour School, he seemed down in the dumps. But the making of any individual is how you bounce back. Having already changed his coach, he worked harder and he started embracing stats in terms of shots gained on the field. Golfers always face the unknown and it’s hard sometimes to see the wood from the trees and make changes. But, like all sports and business people, there are times when you need to make changes and take risks and that’s what he did.”
‘Don’t write off Scott Henry’ was the headline in this column 12 months ago, and now he can show us why people really do believe in him.