26 / 06 / 2016

Emotional Heath crowned king of the Highlands

​An emotional James Heath dedicated his victory at the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts to his late mother, after the Englishman marched to a two-shot triumph in the Highlands.

The 33 year old, who endured a tough start to the year when his mother passed away but has since experienced the joy of fathering a first child, was under the cosh for the duration of the final round at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club.

But he never looked unduly nervous as, much like the third round, he bounced back from the two bogeys he suffered in some style, birdieing the following two holes on each occasion.

The Londoner's drive on the 18th found the long grass on the right hand side but he once again proved he was made of stern stuff in the difficult rainy conditions, knocking his approach to 12 feet and two-putting for a closing par, a four under par final round 68 and a 21 under total.

Heath welled up as he dedicated the win to somebody very close to his heart.

"It's a bit surreal at the moment," he said. "It's been ten years since winning so I had wondered if it was ever going to happen. At the moment it hasn't quite sunk in yet but it feels good.

"Did I feel pressure? Probably from about the time I woke up at 5:40am this morning! My stomach was churning and all that stuff. When you're in contention on both of the final days, it feels the same both days.

"It's great to be in contention on Saturday because it gets rid of some of the nerves and then the last day is a bit easier.

"It's been a very tough year so far for my family, so it was nice to give them something to be happy about. It goes without saying that this one is for my mum."

Having played eight full seasons on the Challenge Tour and two on the European Tour, Heath admits that he did consider packing it in, as recently as last week.

"It's been a good few years in the wilderness for me, no question," he said. "But I'm still standing, still getting the ball airborne.

"I wasn't even going to play this week. I made a double bogey on the 17th hole last Sunday in Saint Omer and I just thought, 'I've had enough'. But I had a pep talk from my brother on Monday night and it was tough love.

"That conversation was the best thing that could have happened to me. It just narrowed my focus. I was annoyed with myself recently because I didn't think I was doing the right things but sometimes that's just me being hard on myself.

"My brother just said, suck it up, get out there and you're in control of your own destiny – just man up basically. It went down a treat."

Heath will now go on to Open Qualifying at Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club in England with the hope of following in the footsteps of 2013 SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge champion Brooks Koepka, who went straight on to win the pre-qualifier for the year's third Major two days after winning this event.

Ryan Fox of New Zealand, meanwhile, clinched his best result since winning Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge last year, carding a seven under par final round 64 to finish in second place outright on 19 under.

Jordan L Smith of England and Frenchman Damien Perrier, both winners on the Challenge Tour already this year, shared third place on 18 under par after respective rounds of 64 and 65.

George Murray was presented with the Douglas Lowe Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the highest-ranked Scot, after the 33 year old finished in a share of 21st place.