Former Duddingston assistant professional Tom Buchanan has earned the chance to rub shoulders with world No.1 Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy next month.
Olympic champion Justin Rose and 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson will also be in the field when Buchanan makes his European Tour debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
The 37-year-old earned the amazing opportunity by winning a qualifier for pros based in the UAE, finishing four shots clear of the field after carding a five-under-par 67 at Saadiyat Beach.
“When you look at some of the names in the field, it’s pretty bonkers that I’m going to be joining them,” admitted Buchanan as he savoured securing his spot in the $3 million event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 18-21.
“It’s unbelievable, just kind of nuts, really, that I have qualified for something as big as this. To be part of it is mind blowing and it’s my birthday as well the week of the tournament. What a great present that is going to be.”
Buchanan, a former Edinburgh & East of Scotland Alliance champion, spent eight years at Duddingston working under the Capital club’s long-serving head pro Alastair McLean.
He left just under six years ago to take up a post as golf operations supervisor at Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting and Golf Club and is now the head professional.
He still keeps in close contact with his old boss McLean and the pair, in fact, took in the Abu Dhabi HSBC event as spectators one year when McLean paid a visit to the UAE.
“I have already spoken to Al, a top bloke who is still the driving force behind me, about coming out here next month for the event and hopefully he can make it,” revealed Buchanan. “There will obviously be a big following from Al Ain and that will be fantastic.”
He carded eight birdies in topping a field of 75 at Saadiyat Beach, setting up what will easily be the biggest week in his career in the first of four European Tour events in the Middle East on the 2018 schedule.
“I played in the Dubai Open when it was on the Asian Tour three years ago and had the likes of Darren Clarke and Arjun Atwal in the field,” recalled Buchanan. “But this is definitely another notch up.
“I went into the Dubai Open not knowing what to expect and will need to try and deal with this occasion better. My first task will be to find some trousers as I wear shots all the time when I normally play out here!”
Buchanan, who was a familiar face on the Capital scene during his spell at Duddingston, required just 27 putts as he finished well clear of host club player Matt Waters in second place.
“As well as enjoying my golf, which is so important, I’ve also been playing good and today was the best I’d putted for probably a year,” he said. “It couldn’t have happened at a better time and I’m absolutely ecstatic to have won this event.”
Meanwhile, Bathgate assistant pro Louis Gaughan breezed into the final of the Alps Tour Qualifying School after finishing second in a 36-hole first-stage event at La Cala in Spain.
The Scottish Par-3 champion carded rounds of 72 and 69 for a three-under-par total and now joins three of his compatriots, Clarke Lutton, Craig Ross and Ewen Ferguson, in the 54-hole final starting on Thursday.