It's a long way from Meldrum House to Malaysia but James Byrne will travel back to Asia this weekend in buoyant mood after notching his first win as a professional in the Aberdeen Asset Management Northern Open last night.
Leading by six shots heading into the closing round, the 23-year-old rookie from nearby Banchory, who joined the paid ranks after playing in last September's Walker Cup, managed to stave off the chasing pack with a level-par 70 for a 12-under 268. He finished five shots ahead of title holder David Law and former Scottish PGA champion David Orr and picked up the first prize of £4000.
The next stop for Byrne will be the Asian Tour's Selangor Masters and the former Scottish boys' stroke play champion is hoping his breakthrough triumph in the pro game can help him fulfil his Eastern promise.
"I would've liked the first win to have arrived earlier than this but it is still a great feeling to have finally achieved it," said Byrne, who will return to the UK later this month for Stage 1 of the European Tour's qualifying school. "Winning breeds confidence and confidence breeds winning."
With a healthy cushion over Law, Orr and two-time Northern Open champion Jason McCreadie, Byrne had every reason to be confident standing on the first tee although Law did up the stakes on the sartorial front with a pair of bright red trousers. Byrne refused to be dazzled and kept his eye on the ball to follow his rival in to the cup from 12 feet on the first for a birdie 3.
The sparring duo continued to trade blows as the contest developed and Law had the opportunity to land a real telling punch on the par-5 fifth. With Byrne forced to dink out sideways from the rough after a wayward drive, Law found himself just off the back of the green with his second and a two-shot swing looked highly possible. A poor chip, however, led to a disappointing par for Law while Byrne trundled in a 12-footer for his own par.
There was still menace coming from other sources, though. When Byrne three-putted the ninth for an ugly double-bogey, Greig Hutcheon, the 2010 champion who was playing two matches ahead, rolled in a birdie on the 11th to briefly get to within two shots before a trio of late bogeys scuppered his bold bid. Byrne steadied the ship on the inward half and sailed home with a stream of pars and a birdie on the 17th.
"I'd not been in the position of leading an event since my amateur days and it was just a case of remembering how to deal with it after that shaky spell," he added.
Law, whose flickering hopes were extinguished with back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13, signed off with a 69 as he completed a stout defence of his crown. "The second and third rounds were the best I've played all year so there is plenty to be encouraged by," said the former Scottish Amateur champion, who came hurtling up the field on day three with a sparkling 63.
Orr, the only player to break 70 every day, finished alongside Law on the 273 mark after a 69 hampered by a couple of momentum-stopping three-putts while Hutcheon, who leaked shots at 14, 16 and 18 during "a comedy of errors", also signed for a 69 and shared fourth on 274 with Gareth Wright, who conjured a 66.
Balmore's Fraser McKenna captured the Bookless Cup as the leading amateur in a tie for 12th on 280 after a closing one-under 69.