Jamie McLeary targets SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge after return to form

Jamie McLeary
Jamie McLeary
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Jamie McLeary is hoping his Danish sizzler is the start of a hot streak on the Challenge Tour, where his next assignment is in the event he won eight years ago.

The Bonnyrigg-based player is part of big home contingent competing in this week’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore.

McLeary landed the first Scottish success in the event at the same venue in 2009, before Fifer George Murray emulated the feat 12 months later.

McLeary’s success was notable for the fact he beat Edoardo Molinari into second place before the Italian went on to qualify for the European Tour and win both the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles the following season.

“I remember not playing amazing that week but the way the conditions were and the difficulty of the course in that weather allowed me to take advantage,” reflected McLeary, who posted an eight-under-par 276 total to come out on top by two shots.

“I’ve certainly played better and finished further down the field. I also remember having a really good week away from the course with my eight-month pregnant wife (fiancée at the time) and close family. That’s the thing about Aviemore, it’s a great place to visit as well as play golf.”

McLeary had also given a great account of himself in the event at Macdonald Cardrona, near Peebles, two years earlier, finishing runner-up to Englishman Robert Dinwiddie. “I played really well at Cardrona that week and my putter got hot on the back nine there,” added the former European No.1 amateur. “But I remember driving the ball really well that week.

“I don’t know if it’s being in Scotland that helps me play well or just good timing. I tend to start playing well around June to September.”

This is the event’s 12th staging, with other winners having included newly-crowned US Open champion Brooks Koepka and Andrew “Beef” Johnston.

“It’s massively important to have the event in Scotland because it allows so many of our good players a chance to play a decent schedule on the Challenge Tour,” said McLeary.

Englishman Sam Walker is the only player to have won the event twice, but McLeary has that target in his sights as he hopes it brings out the best him once again.

“My own game is starting to take shape nicely,” he said, having signed off with a best-of-the-day 65 to finish joint-fifth in the Made in Denmark Challenge on Sunday. “That was definitely a boost heading into the Scottish Challenge and hopefully I can keep up the form in Aviemore as it’s a tournament I’d love to win again.”

Craigielaw’s Grant Forrest will be aiming to maintain his eye-catching form this season on Scottish soil while Danny Kay (Renaissance Club), Zander Culverwell (Dunbar) and James Ross (Royal Burgess) are also in the field.