Craig Howie secures maiden Challenge Tour win by seven shots in Sweden
Three ahead at the start of the day, 26-year-old Peebles man signed off with a 66 at Hinton Golf Club in Malmö to leave the chasing pack trailing in his wake as he finished with an impressive 22-under-par total.
The breakthrough win for Howie came after he’d started the new season with three top-15 finishes on a South African Swing.
The Borderer, who is managed by Paul Lawrie is the first Scot to taste success on the Challenge Tour since Calum Hill landed the last of his three wins in the Made in Denmark Challenge in 2019.
Other Scottish successes on the second-tier circuit in recent seasons included David Law, who is also part of Lawrie’s Five Star Sports Agency, winning the Scottish Challenge in Aviemore in 2018.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” said Howie of his victory, which came in his 34th start on the circuit after stepping up from the German-based Pro Golf Tour, having topped money-list on that in 2018. “I’ve worked really hard for this so it’s really satisfying.”
Howie opened with a birdie and a bogey in his first two holes before an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole settled the nerves and put further breathing space between himself and the chasing pack.
Another birdie at the eighth saw him make the turn with a six-stroke lead, before adding a further three birdies on the back nine to see out victory and move to second place on the Road to Mallorca rankings.
“I don’t think any lead is comfortable until you finish it off,” he added of a success worth €32,000. “I just tried to play my own game.
“Every day I tried to minimise mistakes, I think I only made two bogeys all week, which was really important. I probably putted better than most people did this week. The putter was working really well, so that was probably the biggest reason why the margin was so big.”
The strong start to his season has put Howie firmly on course to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Law, Bob MacIntyre, Grant Forrest and Connor Syme in securing a seat at European golf’s top table through the Challenge Tour in recent years.
“I’ve been trending,” he said. “My game has been really good, but I’ve just not been able to string four rounds together. I played three really good rounds and one poor one every week in South Africa, so I knew it wasn’t far away.”
Howie paid tribute to the 1999 Open champion Lawrie’s influence, adding: “Paul’s been great. When I first signed with his management company, he brought in a couple of sponsors that helped me play. I was able to play with a bit more freedom, which was huge.
“Just on the side, he’s always there to contact if I need to speak to him. He’s helped me with some short game stuff, which is pretty invaluable. You don’t get a nickname like ‘Chippie’ if you’re not pretty handy around the greens.
“He’s been great, there’s been a lot of people who have helped and Paul is one of them.”
Howie’s compatriot, Ewen Ferguson, finished joint-fourth.