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Craig Howie takes huge step towards European Tour with maiden Challenge Tour victory

Craig Howie won in Sweden for his maiden Challenge Tour victory.
Craig Howie won in Sweden for his maiden Challenge Tour victory.

If Craig Howie had any lingering disappointment at being shut out of a Belfry return this week, he extinguished it by taking a major step toward the European Tour with his debut Challenge Tour victory in Sweden.

The 26-year-old from Peebles turned a three-shot lead after 54 holes into a dominating seven-shot victory to take the Range Servant Challenge by Hinton Golf in Sweden.

He’d hoped to return to the Belfry and the Betfred British Masters after recording his best-ever European Tour finish there last year in the UK Championship, closing with a final round 65.

One win and two other top tens in four events

However with this win and two other top tens in the first four tournaments of the Challenge Tour season, the former Scottish Boys champion is not going to ineligible for the big tour for long.

“I’m absolutely buzzing,” he said. “I’ve worked really hard for this so it’s really satisfying.

“I don’t think any lead is comfortable until you finish it off. I just tried to play my own game and with a few holes to go I knew I had a lead of at least three or four shots, so I was just plodding my way round and making sure I wasn’t dropping any shots, and that was good enough.

“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.

“I’ve been trending. 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 when the tour was in South Africa, so I knew it wasn’t far away.”

Lawrie’s support is crucial

The Scot is attached to compatriot and major winner Paul Lawrie’s management company Five Star and, after securing victory in Malmö, he paid tribute to the 1999 Open Champion’s influence.

“Paul’s been great,” he said. “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.

“I mean, 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 definitely one of them.”

Ferguson also in the top five

Another Scot, former Walker Cup player Ewen Ferguson, shared fourth place on 13-under-par.

South African Wilco Nienaber leads the Road to Mallorca Rankings following his Dimension Data Pro-Am victory, but Howie now moves second and with another South African Henric Sturehed, in third position.

The Road to Mallorca now remains in Sweden for a second week, with the Dormy Open taking place at Österåkers Golfklubb, near Stockholm, from Wednesday May 19 – Saturday May 22.

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