Alastair Forsyth sets pace in Scottish PGA at West Kilbride

Alastair Forsyth set a brisk early pace on day one of the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at West Kilbride.

Alastair Forsyth in action during the first round of the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at West Kilbride. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.
Alastair Forsyth in action during the first round of the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at West Kilbride. Picture: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images.

The 46-year-old packed eight birdies into a six-under 65 to lead by a shot from Gavin Hay and the 2019 champion, Paul O’Hara.

Forsyth, a two-time winner on the old European Tour, won the Scottish PGA crown back in 2000 when his fledgling professional career was just taking off.

Here in 2022, the Mearns Castle pro is looking to roll back the years and bridge a sizeable title gap in the national championship.

“It’s nice to still be out here competing,” said Forsyth. “I won the Northern Open in 2019, 20 years after I first won it and it would be great to win the Scottish PGA again after 22 years. It’s early days but this was a good start.”

Forsyth made a telling early surge and a putt of some 30-feet on the second provided the catalyst for three birdies in a row.

His only dropped shots of the day arrived at the ninth and 13th while he finished with a flourish and rolled in a 20-footer for a birdie on the last to edge to the front.

“I’d missed a four-footer for a birdie on 17 so that one on the last softened the blow a bit,” added Forsyth, who is kept busy with a combination of competition and coaching.

“It’s a good mixture. I can be coaching five or six days a week at Mearns Castle. It can be hard to work on your own game when you’re helping others. I can go two or three weeks without hitting a ball.”

O’Hara, the dominant force on the Tartan Tour in recent years, manoeuvred himself into contention with a neatly assembled 66 which started with three birdies on the trot from the first.

“I know this course inside out as I play it a lot and I would certainly have taken a 66 at the start of the day,” said O’Hara, who won the Scottish PGA title in 2019 and was runner-up in 2018, 2017 and 2016.

He was joined in a tie for second by Hay, who started his back-nine with a double-bogey on the 10th but then mounted a stirring recovery and came home in five-under en route to a spirited 66.

“I took the driver out on a few holes coming in and got rewarded,” said the East Renfrewshire pro of his rousing salvage operation.

Last year’s runner-up, Craig Lee, tucked himself into a share of fourth on 67 in a posse that includes the double Scottish PGA champion Gareth Wright and the reigning Scottish Young Professionals’ champion Graeme Robertson.

Graham Fox, who is defending the national title over his home course, recovered from a shaky start with three birdies in a row near the turn on his way to a one-under 70. “There were some silly mistakes in there but it’s not a disastrous score and we’re not too far away,” said Fox, who was a five-time West Kilbride club champion as a teenager.

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