It was a fitting finish to a milestone event. In fact, it could even have been the best blow that has actually decided the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship in its 100 stagings. Okay, that it is difficult to substantiate, but it was still a classy shot that landed Gareth Wright his second title triumph in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event in three years on the King’s Course at Gleneagles.
Having split the fairway at the 18th with his drive – clearing the big bank that used to be such a feature there is no longer a problem for good players these days and certainly not a big-hitter like Wright – the 34-year-old West Linton professional was left with 201 yards to the hole. From almost the same spot around 20 minutes earlier, he’d come off a 6-iron but not this time. It flew arrow-like at the flag, landed just behind the hole and stopped six feet away.
As he’d done when the pair had played it as the 72nd hole, Paul O’Hara refused to make it easy for his title rival by rolling in a six-and-a-half footer for birdie, but Wright ended their day-long duel in style. In went his putt for an eagle. It secured victory at the first extra hole in a play-off after the pair had finished locked together on 16-under-par. The quality of the duo’s golf was illustrated by the fact their closest challengers – Louis Gaughan, Greig Hutcheon and Graham Fox shared third – ended up five shots adrift.
Wright had set up his triumph – it earned the Edinburgh-based Welshman a £9,000 pay-day in picturesque Perthshire – with an opening 62. He’d then been reeled in by O’Hara over the second and third rounds. The final circuit was a ding-dong affair. Wright landed the first two blows with birdies at the first and second. O’Hara fought back to get his nose ahead after seven holes. It was advantage Wright again – by two shots – with six to play before two O’Hara birdies – he got down in two putts from fully 120 feet at the last – forced the play-off.
“We both played really good golf all day,” said Wright. “We didn’t set the world on fire, but it was good, sensible golf and a good game between us. It’s been a very strange year for me as I’ve been playing my golf in lots of different places. In fact, I’ve probably only played in four or five Tartan Tour events. But this is a nice cherry on top of the cake at the end of the year and I love it up here – Gleneagles is one of my favourite places in the world.”
O’Hara may have been beaten in the end but he was far from downbeat. The 30-year-old, who is based at Lochview Golf Centre in Coatbridge through his attachment to North Lanarkshire Leisure, picked up a cheque for £6,500. It was also mission accomplished in his bid to to get into next week’s PGA Play-Offs at Saunton in Devon. As the top three in the “Road to Gleneagles”, Hutcheon, O’Hara and Fox will fly the Scottish flag in that. A top 10 will secure a trip to Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship next May. Two automatic places are also up for grabs in the PGA Cup team at Foxhills in September. “I’ve played solid over the four days and I’m pleased with my performance as I needed a good week to get into the PGA Play-Offs,” said O’Hara.
Matching 65s to finish will see Hutcheon and Fox also head south with a spring in their spikes while Gaughan also got a reward he was looking for. The 23-year-old Bathgate man can look forward to a full Tartan Tour schedule next season through claiming 10th spot on the Order of Merit.