ALAN ANDERSON has emulated American ace Mark O’Meara by chalking up the two biggest wins of his career as a forty-something.
Just as O’Meara won two majors after turning 40, the Bruntsfield Links man has done likewise at Lothians level after being crowned as county champion for the second time in three years.
Anderson, son of former Hearts captain Alan, joined an exclusive club of multiple Lothians Championship winners after beating Musselburgh’s Benn McLeod 4 and 3 in Saturday’s final at Duddingston.
“This one is definitely sweeter than the first time,” admitted the 44-year-old after repeating his triumph at Broomieknowe in 2011. “I’m ecstatic at winning this event twice and it’s even better to have achieved both of those successes in my 40s.”
Anderson’s latest victory in the LGA’s flagship event was hard earned as four of his five wins were secured in extra holes. After scraping past Ed Shannly, John Yuille and Mark Timmins earlier in the week, host-club hope David Miller was added to his list of victims in the semi-finals. Bidding to become the fourth successive Duddingston winner on home soil, Miller’s renowned short game allowed him to take the tie the full distance.
At the last, he had to play out sideways after finding tree trouble off the tee but then conjured up a great up and down.
However, his hopes of emulating Stuart Smith (1986 and 1993) and his namesake Brian (2002) were ended when Anderson won the 19th with a birdie after hitting the hole with an eagle attempt.
McLeod booked his place in the title showdown with a more straightforward victory over Dunbar’s Lee Morgan. And, having underlined his marked improvement by winning the Lothians Order of Merit last year, the 25-year-old probably headed into the final as a slight favourite. But, on a blustery and bitterly cold afternoon in the Capital, McLeod soon discovered he had a fight on his hands as Anderson went two up early on, hitting his tee shot at the par-3 sixth to a few feet.
When he then went three up at the seventh, it was the pivotal moment in the match as Anderson holed from 25 feet for a par there and then watched his opponent three-putt from the front of the green for a 5. “That was huge,” admitted Anderson afterwards. McLeod reduced the deficit when a par proved good enough at the short tenth but Anderson then rolled in another long one – this time for a superb birdie – at the next.
The door was opened again for McLeod when Anderson missed a short par putt at the 12th and he had a great chance to get back to just one down at the 13th. But, after missing from four feet for a birdie there, the Gullane greenkeeper lost the next and it was all over when he was unable to make par either at the 15th.
“I came into the event feeling as though I was playing okay and a new set of Titleist irons are working very well for me,” admitted the champion.
“A decision to change from a Ping putter to the Scotty Cameron one I used when I won two years ago also paid dividends for me.
“It’s a bit heavier and if you are putting well on greens as good as the ones have been here then you’ll hole putts.
“Against David in the semi-finals, he was getting up and down like Phil Mickelson all the time but I’m fortunate to be one of those people who never panics.”
While disappointed to fall at the final hurdle, McLeod is confident that he’ll be able to put his name on the famous trophy as well one day. “All credit to Alan,” he said.
“He holed some key putts while, at the same time, I missed one or two that I should really have holed.
“It was good to make the final, especially as I’d come into the event struggling with confidence.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish it off this time but hopefully I’ll be able to go one better next year as this is an event I definitely want to win.”
Both finalists are hoping to play in this year’s Scottish Amateur Championship at Blairgowrie, though McLeod still has to persuade his boss to get time off for that.
“I was hoping I’d be able to go to him and say ‘look, I’m the Lothians champion’ but I can’t do that now,” he added ruefully.