What is it about Bathgate and golf? Few Scottish clubs, after all, have been so successful in producing a conveyor belt of talent in the Royal & Ancient game.
First Eric Brown, then Bernard Gallacher and, most recently, Stephen Gallacher. All three played in the Ryder Cup and the first two became captains in that event. It’s quite a record and unlikely to be matched.
Guess what? The talent just keeps on coming.
Step forward young Louis Gaughan. At 23, he’s still feeling his way in the game. He’s also yet to record a notable victory, but that might not be too far off. At the halfway stage in the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship – an event won 13 times between Brown and Bernard Gallacher – he’s in the mix. Following a second-round 65 on the King’s Course at Gleneagles, Gaughan shares second spot with Paul O’Hara, the duo trailing Gareth Wright by two shots.
Gaughan failed to set the heather on fire as an amateur but has shown promise in the professional ranks, mainly on the Tartan Tour, where he got himself in contention in both the P&H Championship and the Northern Open earlier in the year, but also on the PGA EuroPro Tour.
He finished eighth at Close House in an event on the third-tier circuit this season. He’s now working with Alan McCloskey, who also coaches Stephen Gallacher among others. McCloskey, the 2014 Scottish Coach of the Year, is a straight-talker, as Gaughan discovered very quickly.
“When Alan first saw me, he said, ‘you’ve got a set up like a pun’o’mince and you must have something if you can compete on this Tour with that’,” he said. “It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear as I didn’t think my set up was that bad, but I took positives from that.”
It was a phone call to McCloskey on Monday night that led to Gaughan posting the best score on day two of the event’s 100th staging along with the two O’Hara brothers – Paul and Steven – as they all signed for six-under in the autumn sunshine.
“I hit it rubbish yesterday but I told Alan what was wrong and he said I needed to keep my hips back on the backswing so I went to the range and hit a lot of balls,” said Gaughan.
“I still didn’t hit it as well as I feel I can, but it was better and it’s still early in the process with a totally new swing. I also holed some good putts today.”
While the history books are on Gaughan’s side in this title tussle, Wright, who said backing up Monday’s 62 had been difficult after adding a 70 yesterday, will still be a tough man to get the better of over 72 holes despite seeing his five-shot overnight lead reduced dramatically, while it would be no surprise whatsoever to followers of the Tartan Tour if Paul O’Hara prevailed.
No-one, after all, has done more over the past couple of seasons to suggest a changing of the guard is in the offing on the Scottish circuit.
The 30-year-old is a class act. He was the bridesmaid three times in five years in the Scottish Amateur Championship before having the guts to take a step back from Tour golf when money got tight fairly early on in his professional career.
Training to become a PGA pro may have been costly – he said his outlay had been £30,000 – but it has coincided with his game being back to its best.
His 65 was a polished effort. A rare occurrence on the King’s Course, it started birdie-birdie.
Both O’Hara brothers are now attached to North Lanarkshire Leisure and are based at Lochview Golf Range in Coatbridge.
Paul said: “Steven has been playing really well there in wee games we’ve been having”.
In short, he wasn’t surprised to see the 36-year-old show the sort of form that enabled him to hold a European Tour card for nine years. During that time, he twice finished third. One came at this venue in the 2004 Diageo Championship.