Graham Fox staved off a valiant challenge from Craig Lee to win the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship in a thrilling finale at Deer Park.
The 44-year-old from West Kilbride closed with an eight-under 64 for a 23-under aggregate of 265 and won by a single shot from his inspired playing partner, Lee, who blasted a course-record equalling 63. In an absorbing tussle of terrific quality, Fox held a three-shot lead on the 17th, but he stumbled to a bogey and opened the door for Lee, whose birdie on the penultimate hole got him to within a stroke.
With nothing to lose, Lee upped the ante and unleashed the heavy artillery on the 18th by smashing a huge drive just short of the green and chipping up to 10-feet. Fox, safely on the putting surface in two, missed his birdie opportunity to give Lee the chance to force a play-off but the Stirling’s man effort for a new course record dribbled by.
Fox, the Scottish PGA champion in 2012 and the runner-up a year ago, was left to savour another victory in an event that boasts a glittering list of winners including John Panton, Bernard Gallacher, Brian Barnes, Sam Torrance, Sandy Lyle and Paul Lawrie. “Craig played superbly and he was like a bad smell, I couldn’t get rid of him,” chuckled Fox of Lee’s relentless pursuit. “Because we were both playing so well, we gained momentum from each other. “I didn’t have big expectations this week and didn’t have much time to prepare with all the coaching I’m doing. But it just goes to show you, sometimes no practice makes perfect.”
Lee reeled off seven birdies and an eagle in a rousing round but it was not enough to claim a championship he has now finished runner-up in four times. “I threw everything at him,” said the former European Tour player “But he wasn’t letting me in at all. Every time I hit a good shot, he was in there beside me and rolling in putts. His bogey on 17 opened the door, but it just wasn’t to be.”
Chris Doak finished in a distant third on 273, with Tom Higson and defending champion Ross Cameron sharing fourth on 274.