Fox relishing Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship defence

Fox relishing Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship defence


When you’re the title holder defending the crown on your home course, there’s a fair bit of expectation to deal with. “I’ll probably be odds on to shoot two 80s in the first couple of rounds,” chuckled Graham Fox ahead of his bid to retain the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship in his own backyard of West Kilbride.

The Arnold Clark Tartan Tour’s flagship event returns to this wonderful links for the first time since the prolific Eric Brown won the fourth of his eight Scottish PGA titles on the Ayrshire coast back in 1960.

Fox has some way to go to emulate the mighty haul of that decorated Ryder Cup stalwart but his success a year ago at Deer Park, almost a decade after he won his first national crown in 2012, remains a conquest to savour.

In a thrilling final day duel, the 45-year-old closed with an eight-under 64 for a 23-under aggregate and staved off the gallant assault of Craig Lee, who finished just a shot behind after a charging course-record equalling 63.

It was a terrific advert for the domestic circuit and Fox is anticipating another absorbing tussle for supremacy at West Kilbride this year.

“This club has a great pedigree when it comes to hosting events and it will be a great week,” said the reigning champion of a venue that was a regular host to the Scottish Boys’ Championship. “I was asked by the PGA in Scotland to put some feelers out to see if the club would be interested. They were really up for it. Personally, it will be nice for me to defend a title on my home course.

“The course is in superb condition. Like all links courses, it will need some wind as its defence but it will be a really good test. I know it inside out so hopefully that gives me a wee advantage.”

Fox’s relationship with West Kilbride stretches back some 30 years and his name is etched on the club’s roll of honour. At the age of 14, he won the first of five club championships in a row as he exerted a Tiger-like tyranny on the annual showpiece. “I thought I’d better stop at five,” he added with a laugh.

Those formative years spent honing his game in this very welcoming, encouraging environment stood him in good stead as he went on to become a Scotland amateur cap, European – now DP World – Tour player and a double Scottish PGA champion.

The success, meanwhile, of Louise Duncan, who finished tied 10th as an amateur in the AIG Women’s Open in 2021 then shared 19th in this year’s championship in just her second event as a pro, was another boost to the club’s reputation for nurturing talent.

“We had an amazing junior section,” Fox reflected. “Fraser Hall went on to become the head pro at Helensburgh, his brother Ricky is director of golf at Turnberry and David Fleming is the pro at Prestwick. It was a great competitive environment to grow up in and what Louise has done has really put the club on the map. I’m confident she can be a big deal in women’s golf.

“For me, winning the club championship at 14 was a by-product of the environment we grew up in. It was perfect for a junior to learn and be encouraged. I just played without a care in the world.”

Fox will be hoping to tap into the relaxed approach he adopted in the Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship a year ago which was rewarded with the ultimate triumph. “I don’t get time to practice much these days and it was the same last year,” he reflected. “I went into the event with no expectations and ended up winning. To win anything is nice, especially when you’re getting older.  

“There are a lot of under-rated players on the Tartan Tour and ex-tour players who still play very, very good golf. You’ve got Greig Hutcheon, Craig Lee, Alastair Forsyth. Paul O’Hara hardly ever shoots anything less than four-under. So, winning an event in which these guys are playing is especially satisfying.”

David Longmuir, the manager of the PGA in Scotland, is relishing the prospect of another week of fine competition and added: “We are delighted to bring the 2022 Loch Lomond Whiskies Scottish PGA Championship to West Kilbride.

“It will provide a true links test for our members and I know we will all enjoy four days of magnificent golf and the renowned hospitality of the West Kilbride club. On behalf of the PGA in Scotland can I thank everyone at West Kilbride for hosting our historic Championship.  Our Scottish PGA professionals are still regarded as some of the best in the game and we hope that as many club members and visitors come along and enjoy the skills on display at our premier event in the Scottish PGA calendar.

“Loch Lomond Whiskies are supporting professional golf with great pride and enthusiasm, and we are very grateful for their continued support of the PGA in Scotland. Whisky and golf are two of the most important products Scotland has given to the world and you can sample the very best of both at West Kilbride from the August 30 until September 2.”


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