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'Beef' takes prize after refusing to be cowed

In THE end, it was the man nicknamed 'Beef' who proved to be a cut above the rest in the Scottish Hydro Challenge.

MEAT THE WINNER: Andrew 'Beef' Johnston poses with the Scottish Hydro Challenge trophy after a final round of 67. Picture: Getty Sport
MEAT THE WINNER: Andrew 'Beef' Johnston poses with the Scottish Hydro Challenge trophy after a final round of 67. Picture: Getty Sport

This was a job well done for the player with the meaty moniker. Andrew Johnston, a 25-year-old from north London, eased to a maiden victory on the European Challenge Tour with a closing five-under-par 66 at Macdonald Spey Valley for a 19-under aggregate of 265 which left him three strokes clear of nearest rivals Moritz Lampert and Terry Pilkadaris.

From the moment Johnston flicked his approach to the second into the hole for an eagle two with a wedge from 83 yards, he always looked like the winner. "I didn't actually see it go in but the cameraman behind the green let me know," admitted an emotional Johnston, who spent five months on the sidelines last year with a niggling shoulder injury. "When those things happen you tend to think it might just be your day."

It certainly was. Two shots ahead going into the final round, Johnston kept the chasing pack at arm's length with a solid, composed performance. There was a wee wobble on the 17th, when he hoiked his tee shot out of bounds, but he limited the damage to a bogey six. That minor mistake was perhaps understandable given that his playing partner Lampert was trying his best to apply some pressure. The impressive young German, who was seeking a third victory of the season that would have fast-tracked him on to the main European Tour, had drifted out of the picture with a three-over outward half but as Johnston's victory procession seemed to be ambling to a fairly uneventful conclusion, Lampert came barging back on to the scene.

If his front nine was disappointing, his back nine was dazzling as the 22-year-old roared home in just 29 blows with a rousing burst of seven birdies which included six in a row from the 12th. It was not enough to reel in Johnston, though. "Moritz just came out of nowhere and he certainly pushed me," added Johnston, a former GB&I amateur boys cap who qualified for the 2011 Open and enjoyed a practice round there with the great Tom Watson. "His charge kept me alert."

Johnston, who informed the assembled scribblers that he is "a quarter Scottish and a quarter Jamaican", has enjoyed his trips up to the Highlands. During the 2012 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart he won 168 bottles of champagne for achieving a hole-in-one on the 168-yard 11th. "I've still got one case left," he said as he prepared himself for a celebratory gargle after picking up a cheque for almost £32,000. "I gave a lot of bottles away as I've not had much to celebrate recently. There won't be many bottles left after this, though."

Like Johnston, Lampert is on course for promotion to the next year's European Tour but he was left to reflect on what might have been after his eventful 67.

"I was a bit nervous this morning as I knew what was at stake," he said. "It would have been nice to get that third win here but I've just about done enough now to get my tour card."

On the home front, Paul McKechnie reeled off 17 pars and one birdie in a 70 for 10-under 274 and shared 20th spot with his compatriot, Greig Hutcheon, who had a 71. With the better closing round, McKechnie earned the honours as the top Scot and was awarded the Douglas Lowe Memorial Trophy, the prize created as a tribute to the late and much-missed former Herald golf correspondent.

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