Martin Dempster: Scottish success breeds success on Challenge Tour

SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge winner David Law at Macdonald Spey Valley. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge winner David Law at Macdonald Spey Valley. Picture: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
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It’s taken time. Five years, in fact. The wait was worth it, though, as David Law 
landed his maiden Challenge Tour victory. Winning on home soil in the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore made up for that lost time. At 27, the Aberdonian can use his sweet success at Macdonald Spey Valley to really kick on.

It was back in 2009 that Law first caught the eye when winning the Scottish Boys’ Championship at Royal Aberdeen. That event, admittedly, has never been the most reliable of guides when it comes to emerging talent, but adding the Scottish Amateur at Royal Troon the same year and claiming that title again at Western Gailes in 2011 most certainly underlined the Hazlehead player’s potential.

He hit the ground running after turning professional in 2011, chalking up a couple of wins on the EPD Tour (now called the Pro Golf Tour) and also beating some seasoned campaigners in the paid ranks to land two Tartan Tour titles, the Northern Open (he also claimed that prize as an amateur) and the Paul Lawrie Invitational.

Rarely did we feel more confident about a young Scottish golfer in recent years being cut out for the European Tour, yet it’s only now, having landed that breakthrough success in his 100th Challenge Tour event, that Law is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as far as that goal is concerned.

“Five years on Challenge Tour, 100 events, not even a top ten in two years and to win yesterday was truly amazing,” he wrote on Twitter of his Sunday success. “Can’t thank everyone around me enough for keeping their faith in me when at times I certainly didn’t. Time to chase more days like yesterday!”

That’s what we want to hear and this season really is shaping up to be a good one for Scots on the European Tour’s development circuit. Liam Johnston had already landed
a Saltire success in the Andalucia-Costa del Sol Match Play 9 while Grant Forrest has been involved in two play-offs. Eleven events into the campaign, both Forrest (seventh) and Law (tenth) are in card-winning positions in the Road to Ras Al Khaimah rankings while Johnston (17th) is also in the mix.

“Success breeds success,” said Law, a product of the Paul Lawrie Foundation and mentored by the 1999 Open champion, as he reflected on becoming the first home player to win the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge title in eight years. “To have the younger lads – Grant, Liam, Ewen Ferguson and Bob MacIntyre – come out on the Challenge Tour this year and do really well has been fantastic. We now have a really good group of young players coming through, as well as the guys who have been out for a little while. I believe we will have a few guys 
contending for cards come the end of the season.”

Losing players such as Forrest, Johnston, Ferguson and MacIntyre, as well, of course, as European Tour duo Bradley Neil and Connor Syme to the paid ranks over the last couple of years has left the Scottish amateurs somewhat depleted at the current time.

That was evident as no home 
player made it to the final 16 in the Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen last week.

On the back of that disappointment, a debate about Scottish Golf, the amateur game’s governing body, was sparked on Twitter, with 2014 Amateur champion Neil, Solheim Cup captain and most recent Scottish major winner Catriona Matthew and Hugh Marr, a Scot who coaches, among others, Ryder Cup contender Thorbjorn Olesen, all getting involved in that.

“If it wasn’t for Scottish Golf, then I wouldn’t be where I am!” insisted Neil in putting up a defence of an organisation that has become cash-strapped since he turned professional. “Granted, I think they could do some things better but producing amateur talent isn’t one of them. Scottish Government is mainly to blame for funding across all sports! I’ve played with most of these guys since junior level and know how good/determined they are. 
If I don’t make it, then it’s down to me, nothing to do with Scottish Golf.”

That particular debate is likely to be ongoing, but there is certainly no denying that, all of a sudden, Scotland has a group of young, talented, ambitious and hungry professionals feeding off each other and that can only help bring more success, hopefully on the European Tour in time as well as the Challenge Tour in the immediate future.

“We have some great players coming through really finding their feet,” insisted man of the moment Law. “It’s time for us to celebrate young players like Connor – and fingers crossed he keeps up his great play as he is now showing what a class act he’s always been – Bradley, Grant, Liam, Ewen and Bob.”

Hear, hear.