McKinnon’s keeps nerve at Cardrona

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Irvine’s James McKinnon won the Cardrona Hotel 36-hole Challenge at the Peebles venue by one stroke from overnight joint leader James Byrne but the Ayrshireman’s cruise to the 
winning line was almost sunk by a triple-bogey 7 at the penultimate hole.

McKinnon, 40, looked to have the £1,750 first prize all but signed, sealed and delivered when he improved his overnight six-under-par position to 12-under with birdies at the first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, 12th and 16th – offset by a single bogey at the short 13th.

Banchory’s Byrne, level on six-under at the start of the round, could not keep up with McKinnon’s blistering pace, even though he himself had an eagle at the 12th and birdies at the second, sixth and eighth. The trouble was he also kept dropping shots at regular intervals – the third, fifth, seventh and 14th.

When McKinnon birdied the 16th to move to 12-under, he was five shots clear of Byrne. Then came a dramatic four-stroke swing between the leaders at the par-4 17th as Byrne birdied and McKinnon ran up his 7.

But McKinnon drew on his 21 years’ experience as a pro to grind out a par down the 18th for a 69 and a total of 135.