Paul O’Hara signalled a changing of the guard on the Tartan Tour as the 30-year-old Motherwell man completed an impressive wire-to-wire win in the Northern Open at Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth.
There’s certainly life yet in the likes of Greig Hutcheon, Graham Fox, Paul McKechnie and Scott Henderson, but there can be no denying surely that this week was a defining moment on the PGA in Scotland circuit.
O’Hara, who won on the third-tier EPD Tour in Germany early in his professional career before taking a different career path as that option became more expensive, had already made his mark by landing the 54-hole P&H Championship last season.
He should perhaps have also won the circuit’s flagship event, the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship, losing out in a play-off at Gleneagles, but boy has he wasted little time in making up for that disappointment.
Three shots clear at the halfway stage on the Moray coast, O’Hara had stretched his advantage to five after a third-round 66 before ending up seven ahead following a closing 71. The only player in the 86-strong field to break par, he finished with a seven-under 277 total.
“This win is right up there with my best,” admitted O’Hara, who picked up a £1400 top prize. “It was great to win on the EPD Tour in Germany while the P&H Championship had bigger prize-money than here.
“However, this was over 72 holes and it also offers more Order of Merit points and one of my goals is to finish in the top three again so that I get into the PGA Play-Offs at the end of the season.
“I would like to try and get into the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth next season through that event - that’s definitely a target.
“To lead from start to finish in an event like this is pretty good, especially with the likes of my brother, Alastair Forsyth, Greig Hutcheon and Paul McKechnie in the field.
“My ball-striking won it for me and my iron play in particular as I was hitting it down the sticks in all four rounds.
“I also hit some great drives today at some of the tight holes, enabling me to get home at them while some of the other guys were probably struggling to do so.”
The win was O’Hara’s third on the Tartan Tour this season, having shot 61 at Largs and 63 at Bishopbriggs in pro-ams. “I’m really enjoying myself at the moment as I’m teaching as well as playing,” added the North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd-attached player.
“I’m playing really consistent and, if I could get a sponsor, I might give the European Tour Qualifying School a go. I’ll just see what happens but, in the meantime, I’ll by trying to get into the Scottish Open at Dundonald Links through the qualifier.”
Three players - McKechnie, Greg McBain and Gavin Hay - tied for second while Bryan Fotheringham, a well-kent fact in Highlands golf, claimed the Bookless Cup for top amateur, the first time that prize had fallen to the Forres man.