CHRIS KELLY has decided to have another crack at the European Tour Qualifying School at the age of 38 after winning the Tartan Tour Order of Merit for the first time.
The Fife-based player ended Greig Hutcheon’s three-year reign as No 1 on the PGA in Scotland circuit after coming out on top in a thrilling title battle with West Linton’s Gareth Wright.
Helped by victories in both the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship and Northern Open, Kelly amassed a winning total of 929 points but was pushed all the way to the wire by Wright as the Edinburgh-based Welshman finished just ten points behind.
It all came down to the final event, the Kerr Investments Pro-Am at Dumfries & Galloway, where Kelly finished sixth - five spots better than his title rival.
“I’m delighted to win the Order of Merit for the first time, especially after putting in so much hard work over the course of the season,” admitted Kelly, a Tartan Tour regular for around 15 years, having recorded his first win in the Scottish Championship in 2003.
“I played great to finish ahead of a tough opponent in Gareth and the highlight has to be the Northern Open (having closed with a 65 at Cruden Bay to win by five shots from Wright).”
Kelly is now gearing up for the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying School, having decided to enter the marathon test for the first time in four years. “I’m looking forward to trying again,” he added. “But I’ll be going there with no expectations, just like every event I’ve played this year.”
Also celebrating a Tartan Tour title triumph is Clydeway Golf’s Paul O’Hara, who wrapped up the Assistants’ Order of Merit for the second year running by winning a match-play event at Ranfurly Castle.
The former Scottish international beat Nairn Dunbar’s Gavin Hay 2&1 in the 18-hole final to add to his Scottish Young Professionals’ Championship victory at West Lothian earlier in the season.
Staying on the PGA front, two English pairings shared the lead at the halfway stage in the Lombard Trophy, Europe’s largest pro-am event, at Gleneagles.
Helped by a 40-foot eagle at the 16th, Bulwell Forest pro Andrew Willey and his amateur partner, Mick Disney, carded a seven-under-par 65 that was later matched by Channels pair Jason Levermore and Ben Steed in the battle for a £12,000 winner’s cheque.
Three off the lead, Paisley professional Andrew Carlton and David Walker are the leading Scots heading into the final round on the PGA Centenary Course.