03 Jun 19
Fresh from winning the WPGA Championship for a second time as she fights cervical cancer, Heather MacRae is looking forward to teeing up in this week's Northern Open at Newmachar.
The 35-year-old, who is attached to Stirling Golf Club, is set for a warm welcome from her fellow competitors at the Aberdeenshire venue after vindicating her decision to keep playing as she awaits surgery by landing that title triumph at Trentham last Friday.
"It's been pretty manic over the weekend, but I think it is sinking in now," admitted MacRae of a success that has earned her a place in the team that will represent Great Britain and Ireland in the inaugural Women’s PGA Cup in Texas later in the year.
"Obviously I've won it before but, when you think of everything else that is going on for me at the moment, it is quite an achievement."
MacRae has been a regular on the Tartan Tour over the last 10 years and has been flooded with messages of support from her fellow PGA Professionals since she was diagnosed in March.
"Once everyone started to find out, I got so many messages from people," she said. "You don't think something like this can happen to you, but it can happen to anyone and the guys have been really good. I've also had loads of messages from a lot of them over the weekend following my win."
The Northern Open, which starts on Tuesday, is returning to Newmachar for the first time in 17 years and former European Tour players Alastair Forsyth (above) and Craig Lee are both heading into the event in good fettle.
Forsyth's preparation for the PGA in Scotland Order of Merit tournament - it has been cut to 36 holes for this year only - has included two recent victories at Stirling and Bishopbriggs.
The two-time European Tour winner shot rounds of 67 and 65 for an impressive 12-under-par total in topping the leaderboard in the 36-hole Order of Merit Challenge at Stirling.
He then backed that up with a sensational 61 in the Bishopbriggs Pro-Am, the 10-under-par effort containing two eagles and seven birdies as he finished seven shots clear of the field.
"I am looking forward to playing at Newmachar as it’s a cracking course and I enjoyed success there last year when winning a 36-hole Order of Merit event," said Forsyth.
"Bishopbriggs was one of those days that come along very rarely where everything clicks on the same day - driving, irons, pitching, putting and no bad bounces!
"One-over-par three days last at Pollok sums golf up, but my game is generally solid tee to green and, if my short game is tidy, I generally score well."
Lee, who claimed this title in 2009 at Macdonald Spey Valley in Aviemore, called time on his European Tour career at the end of the 2017 season after deciding he wanted to spend more time with his family.
He didn't play much at all last year, but has gradually started to step things up again and was pleased to with an 18-hole Order of Merit Sprint event at Williamwood with a two-under 67.
"I'm still not practising or playing as much as I would like and my wrist is playing up after the 36-holer at Stirling," said Lee, who caddied for MacRae in the WPGA Championship.
"That said, I'm I'm keen to do well in the Order of Merit, so the Northern Open would be a good one to get points in."
Paul O'Hara, winner for the last two years, leads this season's Order of Merit title race ahead of Lee, Andrew Oldcorn, Graham Fox and Greg Dalziel, with Forsyth sitting in sixth position.
Other players in winning form heading into the Newmachar event include Gavin Hay and Ross Cameron.
Hay, who, like Forsyth, is attached to Mearns Castle Golf Academy, carded a five-under-par 63 to triumph in the West Dunbartonshire Council Pro-Am at Dalmuir while Cameron came out on top in the Pollok Pro-Am with a five-under-par 65.
Greg McBain will be hoping to make home course advantage count, as will Christopher Lamb and Mark Rae as they try and get their hands on the Bookless Cup for leading amateur.
West Linton's Gareth Wright is not defending the title he won at Nairn Dunbar 12 months ago as he recovers from recent surgery.
Fraser Mann, who was attached to Musselburgh at the time, won the last Northern Open to be held at Newmachar in 2002, with the event returning to the Aberdeenshire club at a time when it is really thriving, having benefited from the arrival of Advanced PGA Professional Mike Timson as the operations director.
“I am delighted we have been selected to host the Northern Open this season," said Newmachar captain Gordon Forbes. “It was in 2002 when Newmachar last held the tournament so we were really keen to host it again after such a long wait.
“Significant developments have been made on our Hawkshill Championship course over the past two years so we look forward to welcoming the best professionals to compete for this year’s title.
“Our team at Newmachar are really looking forward to this year’s tournament and will do everything possible to ensure the Northern Open is a memorable event for all concerned.”
The Northern Open was first staged in 1933 and past winners include Ryder Cup trio Eric Brown, John Panton and Harry Bannerman, as well as David Law, who won the Vic Open on the European Tour earlier this year.
Shona Malcolm, the PGA in Scotland manager, said: "The Northern Open is one of the oldest, most historic tournaments on the PGA calendar and we are grateful to the management team and members of Newmachar Golf Club for hosting the 2019 staging.
"It’s unfortunate that the current champion, Gareth Wright, is unable to defend his title, but there is no doubt that the strong field of PGA members, and a number of amateurs, will be determined to see their own name engraved on the trophy as the 2019 champion."
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