GREIG Hutcheon will attempt to achieve a rare feat in this week’s Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship – the last professional tournament to be played at the Perthshire resort before it stages the Ryder Cup in September.
Since Brian Barnes did the double in the PGA in Scotland’s flagship event in the early 1980s, it’s an accomplishment that has only been managed by one player, though on two occasions.
Ross Drummond won back-to-back for the first time in 1986 and 1987, both at Glenbervie, then repeated the feat in 1989 and 1990, at Musselburgh and Deer Park respectively.
It’s a measure of how competitive the event is that the likes of Sam Torrance, Paul Lawrie, Alastair Forsyth and Chris Doak – all winners since then – were unable to make successful defences of the title.
Now, for the second time in his career, it’s Hutcheon who finds himself with that opportunity after he overturned a four-shot lead heading into the final round to claim a one-shot victory on the King’s Course last summer.
It repeated his 1999 success, though on that occasion he claimed the title as the leading Scot, finishing six shots behind winner Warren Bennett, when the event was on the European Tour schedule and played on the PGA Centenary Course.
“I won it then without really knowing so last year’s win was more satisfying,” reflected Hutcheon, who is now attached to the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Aberdeen and will join the 1999 Open champion at Wentworth later this month for the BMW PGA Championship.
Hutcheon, the Virgin Little Red Tartan Tour No 1, warmed up for his defence by producing a solid display in finishing joint-fifth in the inaugural P&H Championship at Dundonald Links, where the title was claimed by 50-year-old Robert Arnott.
Attached to the Bishopbriggs Golf Range, Arnott now has the chance to complete a quickfire double on the Virgin Little Red Tartan Tour, where this particular prize has eluded him so far during a 25-year career.
“I’m always trying to improve my game and I certainly feel that I am a better player now than I was 15 years ago,” said Arnott, who is waiting to make his European Senior Tour debut after securing a conditional card for the over-50s circuit this season.
The £50,000 event runs from today until Wednesday. The top 34 and ties after 36 holes qualify for the last two rounds on the final day, with the winner earning approximately £9,000.
Others hoping to land that jackpot include the aforementioned Drummond, who is bidding to land a fifth win in the event, as well as former European No 1 Ronan Rafferty, 2001 PGA champion Andrew Oldcorn and Paul McKechnie, who currently holds a Challenge Tour card.
For West Linton’s Gareth Wright, it will be an opportunity to make amends for being pipped by Hutcheon last year, while other title contenders could include Clydeway Golf duo Graham Fox and Paul O’Hara as well as Neil Fenwick, who made the cut in the Johnnie Walker Championship on the PGA Centenary Course last year.
Bernard Murphy, Gleneagles General Manager, said: “We’re delighted to be hosting the Tartan Tour’s flagship event, which is made all the more exciting this year, being the last professional competition to be played at Gleneagles before the Ryder Cup in September. We’re looking forward to three days of great golf on the King’s Course and wish all of the field the very best of luck.”
Brian Mair, Secretary of the PGA in Scotland, added: “We are very fortunate to have Gleneagles as a partner and host venue for our flagship event. Everyone associated with the PGA in Scotland is very much looking forward to a great week on the King’s.”