Brothers Paul and Steven O’Hara shot matching 65s as the chasing pack closed the gap on leader Gareth Wright in the second round of the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles.
Wright, the 2014 winner at the same venue, had his five-shot overnight advantage cut to just two strokes as the event’s 100th staging reached the halfway point in Perthshire.
The 34-year-old West Linton professional described his second-round 70, which moved him to 10-under-par for the tournament, on the King’s Course as a “good day’s work”.
However, the title race has hotted up considerably after the North Lanarkshire Leisure-attached O’Haras joined Bathgate’s Louis Gaughan in carding the day’s joint-best score to make significant moves on the leaderboard.
Steven, who held a European Tour card for nine seasons before falling off the circuit at the end of 2012, spurred Steven to his six-under-par effort in the autumn sunshine.
“I saw on the leaderboard at either the 13th or 14th that he must have shot 65 and said to myself, ‘I’ll need to try and match him’,” admitted Paul.
In doing so, the 30-year-old moved to within two shots of Wright, as did Gaughan after he joined the younger O’Hara in underlining his growing stature on the Tartan Tour.
Steven, who played on the same Walker Cup team as Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Marc Warren at Sea Island in 2001, has just returned to competitive golf this season.
However, his second-day thrust was no surprise to his younger sibling, claiming that he’d seen a low score coming in their recent practice sessions at their new base, Lochview Golf Centre in Coatbridge.
“It is good to see Steven playing well again,” said Paul. “He’s been playing well in the wee games we’ve been having in practice.”
While Steven, having opened with a 74, still has seven shots to make up on Wright, Paul has the leader in his sights heading into the final 36 holes over the next two days.
The 30-year-old, winner of the P&H Championship and Scottish Young Professionals Championship earlier in the year, insisted he’d been unfazed by starting his second round seven shots off the pace.
“I’ve shot a few seven and eight-unders in pro-ams this season, so I knew I could shoot a low one myself,” said Paul, a three-time Scottish Amateur Championship runner-up.
“My coach, David Orr, has done well on this course in the past,” he added of the 2009 winner, “and he gave me a few useful tips on how to get round it.”
A flawless second-day effort was sparked by two opening birdies before O’Hara made further gains at the eighth, ninth, 11th and 18th.
Gaughan, a 23-year-old who has just completed his PGA training under Stuart Callan, is bidding to add to Bathgate’s impressive title haul in this event.
Between them, Ryder Cup captains Eric Brown and Bernard Gallacher claimed 13 titles, with the former landing the first of his eight successes 60 years ago.
“I’ve prioritised the Tartan Tour this year as I want to finish high enough in the Order of Merit to get into the pro-ams next season,” said Gaughan after signing for eight birdies in his second round.
“I still work in the shop at the moment and having my PGA qualification gives me a fall back. But I’ve spoken to Stuart about playing full-time next year and now it’s a case of trying to get things in place.”
Ross Cameron is sitting fourth on his own, three shots off the lead, after recovering from a slow start for the second day running to back up his opening 67 with a 68.
“There’s still a long way to go and I’ll just keep plugging away,” said the 37-year-old Peterhead man, who is bidding to improve on finishing just outside the top 10 two years ago.
Sam Binning is fifth on six-under, a shot ahead of his fellow Mearns Castle Golf Academy player and 2000 winner Alastair Forsyth, as well as Newmachar’s Greg McBain.
With the 36-hole cut falling at four-over, 35 players made it through to the final two rounds, including defending champion Chris Kelly, who bounced back from a disappointing opening 74 with a gutsy 69.
FULL SECOND-ROUND TOTALS
132 G Wright (West Linton) 62 70
134 L Gaughan (Bathgate) 69 65; P O’Hara (North Lanarkshire Leisure) 69 65
135 R Cameron (Saltire Energy) 67 68
136 S Binning (Mearns Castle) 67 69
138 A Forsyth (Mearns Castle) 71 67; G McBain (Newmachar) 72 66
139 S O’Hara (North Lanarkshire Leisure) 74 65
140 C Doak (unatt) 67 73; I Campbell (Cheshunt Park) 70 70; G Hay (Grantown-on-Spey) 70 70; C Ronald (Torrance House) 69 71
141 C Currie (Caldwell) 72 69; G Hutcheon (Paul Lawrie Golf Centre Inchmarlo) 70 71; K Hutton (Downfield) 74 67
142 M Owenson (Gullane) 72 70; P McKechnie (Braid Hills) 73 69; K McNicoll (Gullane) 73 69; I Stoddart (Greenburn) 71 71; J Lomas (Caprington) 67 75; P Wardell (North Berwick) 71 71
143 G Fox (Clydeway Golf) 74 69; C Kelly (Taymouth Castle Estate) 74 69
144 M Loftus (Mearns Castle) 72 72
145 J McCreadie (Largs) 74 71; J Fraser (Renaissance Club) 72 73; S Henderson (Kings Links) 73 72
146 S Morrison (Tain) 77 69; M Bradfield (Elie Links) 75 71; M Hillson (Kilconquhar Castle Estate) 74 72; R Arnott (Bishopbriggs Golf Range) 76 70; J McGhee (Whitehill House) 73 73; C Elliott (Haggs Castle) 74 72; A Brown (Whitecraigs) 71 75; I Colquhoun (Loch Lomond) 74 72
147 M Pottinger (American Golf) 75 72; F Mann (Carnoustie Golf Links) 77 70; E Bowden (North Berwick) 74 73; C Gordon (Edinburgh Golf Centre) 76 71; G Brown (Montrose Golf Links) 76 71
148 M Kerr (Dalmahoy) 76 76; C Matheson (Falkirk Tryst) 72 76; A Hogg (Kingsbarns Golf Links) 75 73
149 P Robinson (Largs) 76 73
150 S Milne (Balbirnie Park) 75 75; R Neill (Drumpellier) 77 73; S Gray (Lanark) 77 73
151 I Anderson (Colville Park) 81 70
152 C Sutherland (Cherry Lodge) 75 77; R Munro (Duddingston) 82 70; J Bell (Lanark) 81 71
153 A Reid (West Lothian) 73 80; A Jowett (Gleneagles Hotel) 79 74; K McNiven (Gleneagles Hotel) 80 73
154 R Clarke (Golf Dedication Centre) 79 75; G Law (Uphall) 79 75
155 C Marr (Musselburgh) 82 73
156 A Forrow (Whitecraigs) 83 73
157 D Flannery (Caldwell) 81 76; O Huish (North Berwick) 78 79
159 F Rummins (Canmore) 77 82; G McDougall (Elie Links) 79 80
160 F Robertson (Lundin) 79 81
161 P Jamieson (Dunblane New) 81 80
164 N Huguet (Musselburgh) 81 83
167 E MacDonald (Musselburgh) 83 84
DQ R McConnachie (Peterculter), S Catlin (Affordable Golf)