Glory for Lanarkshire club in Scottish Golf’s first foreign final
By Ed Hodge
Lanarkshire club Torrance Park will go down in history as the winners of the first-ever Scottish Golf national event to be staged overseas after triumphing in the Belhaven Best Scottish Club Handicap Championship in sun-kissed Turkey.
Thanks to a ground-breaking new sponsorship deal, the grand final of Scotland’s biggest participation event was taken abroad to the magnificent Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Belek, the host venue for this November’s Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour.
In glorious conditions, Torrance Park duo Grahame Lockhart and Scott Gould shone over the 36 holes to take the title ahead of 19 other club pairings.
It proved an incredibly close finale, as Lockhart and Gould finished on the same fourball betterball total - two-over-par - as north-east club Kintore, represented by Brian Gilbert and Robbie Lawrence. However, Torrance Park’s better back nine saw them lift the trophy.
The move to hosting an event abroad is part of Scottish Golf’s ongoing campaign to provide exclusive benefits and unique golf experiences to its 222,000 member golfers. It was achieved thanks to sponsors and partners Belhaven Best, Turkish Airlines, the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort and GolfKings, Scottish Golf’s official travel partner.
Competing over the Carya layout in round two, following an opening 18 holes at the National Golf Club - the former home of the Turkish Airlines Open on the Ladies European Tour - Lockhart and Gould surged through the field with a closing 68, while Kintore’s Gilbert faltered with two late bogeys. In the end, Torrance Park’s back nine of three-under 32 was better than Kintore’s by two shots.
Hayston pair John Paul Linning and David Carr finished third thanks to a closing 69, pushing Cruden Bay duo James Booth and Eric Whiteside into fourth by a stroke. Lothians club Aegon and Sanquhar from the south shared fifth spot.
For Lockhart and Gould, the win was particularly satisfying given that they only joined Torrance Park last year. They subsequently came through a regional qualifier for Turkey at Uphall.
Lockhart, 43, a 19-handicapper from Bellshill, said: “It’s been a phenomenal experience this week and now a tremendous achievement for us, so I’m a little lost for words. We all came here to try and win it but being here in Turkey itself was the first prize, to be honest.
“I can’t thank all the sponsors involved enough for this opportunity, as the facilities here are beyond five-star for me. It’s an unbelievable resort. I’d also like to thank Scottish Golf for running events that give the average golfer the chance to live the dream for a few days.”
Gould, 33, a nine-handicapper from Carluke who, like Grahame, is a dairy worker, added: “Never in a million years did I think I would be somewhere like this playing golf. It’s been the experience of a lifetime.”
Kintore, meanwhile, were left to rue what might have been. Gilbert, 36, who plays off two, said: “We thought we had missed out by a couple of shots, so losing to a better back nine is a little frustrating. We threw away silly shots with a few three-putts but finishing second is still a great result and, overall, it has been a brilliant trip.”
The Belhaven Best Scottish Club Handicap Championship has been the country’s biggest participation event since its launch in 1999, with around 20,000 club members taking part in local qualifying each year.
Ahmet Serhat Sari, the general manager of Turkish Airlines in Scotland, was thrilled with how the event was received.
“We wanted to reach all the golfers in Scotland, that was the main idea to be involved in this great championship,” he said. “One of our added benefits for golfers is that golf bags fly for free with Turkish Airlines, which is great news for golfers taking trips overseas with us.”
Neil MacRae, GolfKings’ sales director, added: “Getting involved with Scottish Golf on this type of event has been good for us and the feedback has been great. We stayed in a fantastic resort at Regnum Carya and the players were so impressed with the set-up.”
If you want to have the opportunity to play in next year’s grand final in Turkey, make sure your club is hosting a local qualifying event and be sure to take part. Information will be coming to clubs soon.