Bathgate are Belhaven's Best
In conditions on a par with the Mediterranean, Bathgate proved the hottest on the Fife fairways to emerge as ‘Belhaven’s Best’ at The Fairmont, St Andrews, winning the Club Handicap Championship Grand Final.
As the ‘East Neuk’ basked in picture postcard conditions, with temperatures soaring and little wind to speak of, the Lothians pair of Colin McGarry and Alan Aitken fired a title-winning, nine-under-par 63 on an inevitable day of low scoring over The Torrance Course.
The contrast to 12 months ago could not have been greater, after last year’s handicap event – won by Ranfurly Castle duo Crawford MacKay and Colin MacDonald – was played out in monsoon-like conditions at the near-by Duke’s Course.
Playing a 4-ball better ball stroke play format with a 3/4 handicap allowance, Bathgate’s birdie blitz simply proved too good. Cruden Bay and Strathaven had been the early clubhouse leaders, before Bathgate came through to be Scotland’s Best Handicap partnership for 2011.
In doing so, they become the twelfth winners of Scotland’s biggest participation golf event. Some 24,000 golfers across 280 clubs set off in pursuit of glory through local and regional qualifying, with Bathgate taking the spoils in the 40-team grand final shoot-out.
The prestigious national title is part of Belhaven’s £250,000 investment in amateur golf over the next three years and has again proved hugely popular this year.
McGarry and Aitken eventually won a tight finish by two shots from four teams, Edinburgh Western, Balbirnie Park, Balfron and Strathaven, all who fired 65’s, with Esporta Dougalston and Cruden Bay a shot further back. On a card play-off to decide second and third places, Balbirnie claimed the runners-up spot, with Strathaven third. Of the 40 teams, an impressive 27 were under par in the glorious conditions.
“I looked at the Scottish Golf Union website for the report and pictures of last year and it looked a bit wet,” laughed Alan, a 13-handicapper from Harthill. “This year it was just beautiful, really nice.
“Myself and Colin just dove-tailed really well and we had seven birdies and an eagle, with no dropped shots.”
After starting on the 10th, the key to success for the duo was an eagle from Alan to conclude the front nine before they recorded back-to-back birdies at the finish.
Colin’s final putt came in front of the SGU cameras and the eight-handicap from Armadale said it was a special moment: “It was a bit nerve-wracking having the camera there, but it was a great feeling to hole that putt on our 18th. It’s my third win of the year, but this is definitely the biggest victory for either of us. It was a great day, so nice in the fantastic conditions. The golf course was also immaculate.”
In other prizes, the longest drive on the eighteenth was won by Gary Mack (Esporta Dougalston) and the nearest the pin at the eighth hole by Dave McIntosh (Newburgh on Ythan).
Highlights of the final will be broadcast on SGU TV next month.