Doak takes route 66 to lead Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship

Doak takes route 66 to lead Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship

31/08/2021

Golf and golfers have often endured the kind of turbulent, love-hate relationship that would make Fatal Attraction look like Steptoe & Son in comparison.

Chris Doak would probably agree with that. “I’ve spent so much time over the last couple of years convincing myself that I didn’t like golf,” he admitted after setting a sprightly early pace on day one of the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship at Deer Park. “But now, I’m just trying to enjoy it.”

Doak certainly seemed to enjoy himself on the opening day of the national championship. The 43-year-old, who won the Arnold Clark Tartan Tour’s flagship event back in 2010, finished a stroke clear of Thomas Higson as his bid to bridge an 11-year title gap got off to a purposeful start

Doak, who lives just a few minutes from the Deer Park venue in Livingston, put on a fine show in his own backyard and illuminated his card by holing a wedge from 55 yards for a birdie on the sixth.

Having struggled with injuries in recent seasons, as well as losing his card for the European Tour, Doak is slowly rekindling his passion for golf and this  was another step in the right direction.

“I’ve found something in my game again,” said Doak, who was a dominant force on the Tartan Tour during a prolific spell between 2005 and 2008. “My old coach, Bob Torrance, used to say ‘coach yourself’, and he was right. I’ve remembered things I used to do well and it’s beginning to show again.”

Higson tucked himself in behind Doak with a 67 but the Gleneagles pro admitted his progress up the leaderboard was far from serene.

“My irons were shocking and I was hitting them left all the time,” said Higson, who won the Deer Park Masters on the domestic circuit earlier this season. “I was fighting it all day and it was a real battle. But I’ve got to be happy with a 67 when I don’t feel I’ve played particularly well.”

Higson’s birdie on the 17th underlined the topsy-turvy nature of his round. “I was in position Z off the tee, then position Z-minus after my second but somehow I holed from 30 feet for a three,” he added of this unorthodox route which just about required an Ordnance Survey Map instead of a strokesaver.

Graham Fox, who won the Scottish PGA Championship in 2012, rolled in a six-footer for birdie on the last in a 68 to lurk in third while Ross Cameron, the defending champion, made a telling thrust around the turn and made four birdies in five holes from the eighth on his way to a 69.

“I’d made a slow start but that little spell got me going,” said Cameron, who was joined on the three-under mark by a posse of players which includes two-time national champion Greig Hutcheon.

Golf’s fickle fortunes, meanwhile, were illustrated by Stephen Gray, who made a hole-in-one on the 10th to jump to the top of the order only to swiftly slither backwards with a double-bogey on the 11th and a bogey on the 12th. Gray eventually signed for a 71.

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