When you’ve dined on the fine fare that the European Tour offers, the step back down to the Challenge Tour can be a bit like slurping some microwaveable swill at a busy truck stop.

Connor Syme didn’t have to wait too long to book his place at the top table of the game.

Having turned pro at the end of 2017, he eased through the tour’s daunting qualifying school final and fast-tracked himself to the main circuit for the 2018 campaign.

A topsy-turvy year of adventure, discovery and fluctuating fortunes, which was illuminated by a second place finish in the Shot Clock Masters, eventually saw the Fifer lose his card.

HeraldScotland:

Bruised but unbowed, Syme faced up to the rigours of the second-tier Challenge Tour, an environment so fiercely cut-throat it’s broadly equivalent to jungle warfare.

By the end of a tough 2019, Syme had earned the 14th of 15 promotion places available and, in South Africa today, he strides back out on the European Tour in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

“It’s nice to be back although it’s a bit crazy the new season is here already,” gasped Syme of this whirlwind spell.

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The 24-year-old bolstered his Challenge Tour campaign with an early victory in the Turkish Airlines Challenge but, such is the nip-and-tuck nature of the circuit, he still found himself constantly peering over his shoulder like a jittery pedestrian walking down a dark alley and hearing a tin can mysteriously rattling in the background.

“I knew it would be very hard to graduate in one year and while that early win helped, you still have guys chasing you down all year,” reflected the former Walker Cup player who only sealed his step up in the nail-nibbling, season-ending Grand Final.

HeraldScotland:

“The last round in the Grand Final was tough, I wouldn’t like to go through that again. In the situation I was in it was much more pressure than the q-school a couple of years earlier when I didn’t really have much to lose.

“This time, a year of work was on the line. You get guys who have been in the top 15 of the Challenge Tour rankings all season – I’d be in there for 27 or so weeks – and then you start to think that the only week I could not be in is at the end of the last event.

“There’s a lot buzzing around your head and a lot of emotion. You spend a lot of time looking over your shoulder and it was a hard season.

“There were times I finished just one shot out of the good money. In Italy, one shot cost me £5000 which in Challenge Tour terms goes a long way.

“In the last few events, the guys who are 16 to 20 and just outside the promotion places have nothing to lose and they are almost playing with a freedom.

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“I essentially had my card all year and it was there to be stolen by the guys behind me. Thankfully I managed to hold them off.”

The stripped-back, no frills nature of the Challenge Tour can be a bit of culture shock to those dropping down a division. Syme, however, was up for, well, the challenge. “Life is easier on the main tour in the sense of, things like the service or the courtesy cars,” he added of the perks that come with being in among the big boys.

“With my category I actually could have played maybe 18 main tour events this year but I decided the Challenge Tour would be best for my development.

“I’ve kind of gone a roundabout way to get to where I want to be. I started on the main tour, then went back down and now I’m back up again.

“I think those experiences and the ups-and-downs have made me a better player.”