By MARTIN TIGHE
The 2016 Tartan Tour Order of Merit swung into action this year in May at the spectacular Renaissance Club, East Lothian, as it played host to the 54-hole P&H Championship.
The Order of Merit was played over six events this year culminating in the Tour’s flagship event at the King’s Course Gleneagles – The M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship. Special significance was drawn to the final event of the year as the competition celebrated its centenary.
But back to the Renaissance where the Tour couldn’t have got off to a more thrilling start. In testing conditions Clydeway Golf’s Paul O’Hara secured victory in the £40,000 event. He edged out fellow Clydeway golfer Graham Fox on the first play-off hole after both players had carded three-under par final scores of 210.
Next up was the Northern Open, played at Royal Dornoch in June. Greig Hutcheon from the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre was the man to beat as he carded four successive rounds in the 60s to finish on a thirteen-under par score of 267.
He led the field by six shots and along with the winner’s cheque, Hutcheon secured 270 points for the Order of Merit which proved to be crucial at the end of the year.
The start of July saw the players heading to the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open qualifier at Moray Old Course, Lossiemouth. Played over two rounds, and with four places up for grabs at the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, it certainly was a competitive couple of days.
Ayrshireman Jack Doherty came through in first place and his performance certainly made up for missing out on an Open place at Troon where he lost out by a single shot to Colin Montgomerie five days earlier.
Doherty said: “I’m delighted to have bounced back like that, It’s funny how things have worked out after what happened on Tuesday and, to be honest, I was actually more nervous today than I was then.”
In August, the Deer Park Masters were held in Livingston. A sublime eight-under par 64 in the first round, followed up by a steady level par 72 was enough for Greig Hutcheon to take the title by one stroke from Paul O’Hara in the two round event. This battle for the Tartan Tour was really hotting up.
At the end of the month came the penultimate Order of Merit event of the year. The Kerr Investments Pro-Am, played at Dumfries and Galloway Golf Club saw yet another tie at the end of play for top spot.
Again over two rounds, nothing could separate Graham Fox and Largs golfer Jason McCreadie as they shot identical scores of 65 and 63, to finish on 12-under par totals of 128.
And so the Tartan Tour moved into October, and to Gleneagles, for the 100th playing of the Scottish PGA Championship. For the centenary, the event had secured new sponsorship from M&H Logistics and a prize fund of £50,000.
With the King’s course in magnificent condition, the course was treated to spectacular golf as eventual winner Gareth Wright carded a flawless nine-under par 62 in the first round to hit the front by five strokes.
That first day lead from the Welshman was required as over the next three rounds the field caught up with him. Great scoring from Paul O’Hara forced Wright into a play-off and Wright secured victory on the 18th with a tremendous eagle three.
The Order of Merit now had its winner. After six events on the Tartan Tour, Greig Hutcheon came out on top after a close battle with Paul O’Hara in second, and Graham Fox in third.
Gareth Wright had left his charge just a little too late as he secured his second PGA title. But the big question is, will the same faces be challenging for the honours in 2017? Or will we see a changing of the guard?