The Peebles siblings were sitting first and second heading into the final round at the Edinburgh venue, where Craig eventually claimed an emphatic eight-shot victory as the 22-year-old repeated his 2013 victory in the Scottish Order of Merit event.
He’s just the ninth player in the tournament’s history to win it more than once, joining Ronnie Shade, Charlie Green, Ian Hutcheon, George Macgregor, Roger Roper, Craig Watson, Marc Warren and Graeme Robertson in achieving that notable feat.
“It’s hard to compare my two wins as they came at totally different times in my career,” said Howie after closing with a 67 – he’d been a model of consistency in carding three 66s prior to that – for a 15-under-par 265 total. “This one is just as sweet, nonetheless. I hit the ball great all weekend and it was good to play the last round pretty stress-free.”
That may not have been the case if 17-year-old Darren, having moved within four shots after a third-round 65 then getting even closer following birdies at the second and third, hadn’t seen his challenge eventually fizzle out. He was disappointed to slip into a share of third spot, three-putting the last to miss out on a share of second with Clydebank & District’s Steven Maxwell, but he had no real reason to feel anything but encouraged.
This eye-catching performance, after all, came hot on the heels of last year’s Stephen Gallacher Foundation Trophy winner having also given an excellent account of himself by finishing third in the Scottish Boys’ Open Stroke-Play Championship at Monifieth on Friday.
“It was quite strange having Darren as my closest challenger,” admitted Craig, who opened his final round with “12 tap-in pars” before making a 2 at the 13th then emulating that feat two holes later. “I was up with him at Monifieth, so was willing every putt to go in for him there, and I’d rather it had been someone else chasing me in the final round. I’m buzzing for him, though, as he’s had a good start to the year.”
Elsewhere, Italian Edoardo Molinari left some “hard times” behind him as he beat Irishman Paul Dunne in a play-off to win the Hassan Trophy in at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco. It was Molinari’s third European Tour title, the previous two both coming in Scotland where he won both the Scottish Open and Johnnie Walker Championship in 2010. The latter secured a Ryder Cup wild card from Colin Montgomerie for that year’s match at Celtic Manor, where Molinari played on the same team as his brother, Francesco.
He was then hit by a serious wrist injury and for the past two seasons has found himself at the Qualifying School having to regain his playing rights.
“It’s fantastic,” said the 36-year-old. “It’s been a while. I’ve been through some very hard times in the last few years and to get this I’m very very pleased.”
In the Lalla Meryem Cup, an event running concurrently at the same venue, Carly Booth chalked up her first top-ten finish in two years as Klára Spilková became the first Czech golfer to win on the Ladies European Tour.
Booth, a two-time winner on the circuit in 2012, claimed a share of eighth spot after a closing 71 saw her end up one-under, seven shots behind Spilková, who produced a last-round 66 to pip overnight leader and title favourite Suzann Pettersen (71).
Booth, who earned €10,800 for her effort, leapfrogged Kelsey Macdonald to finish as top Scot after the Nairn player closed with a 76 – nine shots more than her round on Saturday – to slip from a share of eighth overnight to joint-19th on two-over.