Challenge Tour stars scale new heights in Scotland

Five European Challenge Tour stars reached new heights when they launched the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts by hitting the highest golf shots in the UK from 1097m above sea level.

One of the flagship tournaments on the European Challenge Tour schedule, the Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts takes place this week at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club in the northern resort town of Aviemore.

The Ptarmigan restaurant at the peak of the CairnGorm Mountain was the perfect setting to launch the tournament as young Scottish trio James Byrne, David Law and Michael Stewart were joined by Eddie Pepperell of England and France’s Michael Lorenzo-Vera to sample the stunning views and wow the crowds with their pinpoint accuracy.

Striking from an elevated tee and with the wind howling, they were given the difficult task of trying to land the ball on a small, specially-constructed green about 130 yards down the mountain. While the players found it a tough task at first, they soon found their range and 23 year old Byrne even came close to a hole-in-one as one of his final attempts bounced out of the cup before resting on the green.

The former Walker Cup star celebrated in style by dropping to his knees and clenching his fists, before he was congratulated by his fellow players.

It was Lorenzo-Vera who emerged victorious though, by hitting closest to the pin with a shot that bounced off the rocks before landing five yards from the hole to the delight of the onlookers.

The players agreed that it was a perfect warm-up for the week ahead as they were able to enjoy some relaxed fun with a slight competitive edge.

“It was really good fun to come out here before the tournament and relax and have a laugh with the lads,” said Law, who is mentored by fellow Aberdonian Paul Lawrie. “It’s different from anything I’ve ever done before, that’s for sure.

“I thought we had no chance when I saw it at first but a couple of the guys hit some good shots and it was great to see.”

Byrne said of his near-hole in one: “It was brilliant. It was such a tough shot and to actually pull it off, I felt I had to celebrate pretty well.

“We thought it was around 70 yards when we saw it first and so we thought it would be reasonably easy even with the wind but it’s actually about 130 yards and the green is only about two metres in length and width so the chances were pretty slim and to hit it was pretty impressive.

“Maybe that was close to being the highest hole in one in the world!”

Stewart, Byrne’s team-mate from the winning Great Britain and Ireland team in last year’s Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen, said: “It was good fun. It’s good to keep it light-hearted before the tournament, it keeps your mind off the business this week.

“I’m really excited and nervous for the tournament to start now and obviously I want to play well because it’s a home event.”

The Scots are well represented this week with the five members of Team Scottish Hydro – Chris Doak, Jack Doherty, Callum Macaulay, Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary – all playing, as well as brothers Elliot and Lloyd Saltman.

Former BMW PGA Championship winner Scott Drummond and Wallace Booth, whose sister Carly won the Ladies Scottish Open on the Ladies European Tour earlier this year, are also present.

Gary Lockerbie, the current Rankings leader, is also in attendance for the €220,000 event, as are former champions Robert Dinwiddie (2007) and Sam Walker (2006), and England’s three time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty.

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