Gareth Wright has high hopes in Aviemore

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EDINBURGH-BASED Gareth Wright watched sparks fly in the first round of the Scottish Hydro Challenge in Aviemore but insisted: “I’m here to try and win, not just make up the numbers.”

Wright had seen Northern Irishman Alan Dunbar and South Korean Byeong-hun An set a red-hot pace with course-record nine-under 62s before he’d even teed off at Spey Valley.

But the West Linton-attached player was happy enough with an opening 68 that was matched by fellow Capital- based player Neil Fenwick to leave the duo tied for 30th in a strong field in the Highlands.

“This isn’t an easy course at all so to see a couple of 62s up on the leaderboard before you head out definitely puts you on the back foot a bit,” admitted Wright. “It makes shooting a decent first-round score yourself paramount and the fact you’ve seen players go low shows there are birdies out there.”

Wright’s round was illuminated by an eagle-3 at the fifth, where he hit a rescue club to 15 feet. “I probably felt I deserved better than three-under because my swing is starting to feel good,” he added. “Indeed, I feel I am close to playing some really good golf.”

Asked what his aim was in a rare start on the Challenge Tour, Wright said: “I’m trying to win. I’ve finished second in this event in the past so I’m not just trying to make up the numbers. I’ve held a card for this circuit in the past and nothing here is new to me.”

Dunbar and An shared 20 birdies between them as they led a low-scoring spree on a heather-lined course that stretches more than 7,000 yards. “I’d definitely say the Challenge Tour now has more strength in depth than when I was on it,” observed Wright, who is looking forward to making his PGA Cup debut against the Americans in September.

Midlothian-based Jamie McLeary, winner at the same venue four years ago, is off to a good start again after an opening 66 left him just outside the top ten. Raymond Russell (69) was next best among the Lothians contingent while Lloyd Saltman’s 70 put him a stroke ahead of his two brothers, Elliot and Zack, as well as Mark Kerr.