In true Scottish style, Gary Orr did it the hard way. Five shots clear of the field with nine holes to play on a wild day at Craigielaw – play was suspended briefly as balls started moving on the exposed greens – he ended up having to hole an eight-foot birdie putt at the last to win the Scottish Senior Open.
“Bloody hell, that was hard going,” admitted the 51-year-old Helensburgh man as he savoured becoming just the fourth home player to claim the title and first since Sam Torrance did the trick at Dalmahoy in 2006.
It was Orr’s maiden victory on the Staysure Tour (formerly the European Senior Tour), coming at the 20th attempt. The sweet success was recorded 18 years after he landed the British Masters and the Portuguese Open in the same season on the European Tour.
“It’s been a long time,” admitted Orr, who lives in Weybridge in Surrey but still has a strong Caledonian twang. “It’s great to get my first [over-50s] victory on Scottish soil. This is brilliant, in fact.”
He hardly played for three years between ending his spell on the main Tour and opening this new chapter in his career. That was down to back trouble. But two-second place finishes, both in the Willow Senior Classic at Hanbury Manor, hinted that this breakthrough win was in the offing.
“In some ways, it is just as satisfying as my two main Tour wins,” admitted Orr. “Obviously it’s not the same stature of events but you are still playing against guys you played against from that circuit and it’s the same feeling when you win.”
Three shots ahead at the start of the day, the Scot looked to be cruising to victory as he turned for home with an even bigger cushion. But, after dropping a shot at the tenth and then running up a double-bogey 6 at the 12th, he suddenly found himself just two ahead of one of his playing partners, Englishman Paul Streeter.
The gap was down to just one after Orr bogeyed the 17th and Streeter, who had landed his own maiden victory in the recent Travis Perkins Masters at Woburn, turned up the heat by hitting a brilliant second to around 15 feet at the par-5 18th, where the tee had been moved up due to it being into the teeth of the westerly wind.
His eagle attempt slipped past on the left, leaving Orr with that testing eight-footer and a little fist pump showed what it meant to him as that was knocked in. “I wasn’t feeling nerveless,” he said, smiling, of the putt that secured a top prize worth €42,068, having closed with a 76 for a four-under-par 209 total.
“It’s hard any way when you are trying to win a tournament and it was really brutal out there today. It feels fanastic now, though. It was just a case of grinding away. I was going along pretty well until I got a bad break at the 12th, where I got a flyer and went into a bush, making a double-bogey. That knocked me off a bit and I struggled for a few holes after that. But it’s nice to come through in the end.
“I didn’t know I was five shots clear at the turn. After a few holes, I felt it was a waste of time looking at the leaderboards as it would be changing so much in these conditions. I decided to just plod on. It wasn’t until after I had made that double bogey that I looked and I was still ahead, though down to two at that point.
“Paul, who flights it down a bit, hit a great shot in at the last and I knew I had to make 4 and left myself with a putt into the wind after hitting a pretty good pitch. That was important. It was actually ridiculous today. You were trying to think where do I not want to be – it was so tough.
“We stopped when the balls started to move on the fifth green. It was right on the limit anyway and then a squall came through.”
Streeter, who closed with a 73, was the only other to finish in red figures on three-under, with Philip Price covering the last six holes in an astonishing five-under as he closed with a 68 for a share of third with David Shacklady, Rafael Gomez and Markus Brier.