THERE’S something about play-offs in East Lothian that seems to bring out the best in Gareth Wright.

After his extra-hole victory over Greig Hutcheon in the P&H Championship at The Renaissance yesterday, it’s now four out of four in sudden-death shoot-outs in this neck of the woods down the seasons.

“I seem to be lucky around here,” said Wright who has won a Scottish Open and an Open qualifier at North Berwick as well as a Paul Lawrie Matchplay qualifier over the wall from here at Archerfield in the last few years. He’ll be getting a job with the East Lothian Tourist Board at this rate.

Loading article content

On reflection, Wright perhaps shouldn’t have had a sniff of success this time after both players had finished locked on 10-under aggregates of 203.

Hutcheon led by two strokes standing on the 18th tee but, in this unpredictable game, it’s never over until the caps are off and handshakes have been exchanged on the green.

As it turned out, Hutcheon went barking up the wrong tree with his drive on the last and Wright, ultimately, became the top dog.

His rival ended up partially blocked by one of those pesky elongated perennial plants and could only plunge his approach down into a hollow by the edge of the green. Wright seized his opportunity and conjured a nicely executed knock-down with a 7-iron from around 167 yards to within five-feet to put the pressure on.

Faced with the kind of treacherous up-and-down that would’ve given Evel Knievel the heebie-jeebies, Hutcheon raced his effort with the putter some 15 feet past the hole and then left the return short in a damaging bogey for a one-under 70.

Wright stepped up and trundled in his birdie putt to complete a two-shot swing and force the play-off with a 70 of his own. Hutcheon again flirted with the menace of a tree on the first extra hole and stumbled to another bogey as Wright sealed a prize of £7250 with a sure and steady par.

“Greig had played well all day but the tree on 18 was an issue and I tried to force it when I had the chance,” said Wright, who will defend his Scottish PGA title at Gleneagles later next month. “Play-offs can be a flip of the coin but it went my way again.”

Hutcheon, who had led by three after the eighth, may have been left cursing that 18th-hole mishap but the 44-year-old was also ruing a missed birdie opportunity from five feet on the 17th which would have given him an even greater cushion. “I knew that was my chance to seal it,” he said.

Having helped GB&I win the PGA Cup against the US in Surrey last weekend before charging back up the road to play here, Hutcheon was remaining upbeat. “It’s been the best week of the year, I’ve made a cheque here so happy days,” said the Aberdonian.

Cathkin Braes assistant Alan Welsh had plenty to be happy about too as he signed off with a fine 64 to share second with Neil Fenwick, who also posted a seven-under card, as the chasing duo finished just a shot off the lead.

Welsh required just 14 putts to cover his last 12 holes as he engineered his “best round of the season.” It was also his best result on the Tartan Tour.

“I’ll be back in the pro shop in the morning,” said Welsh.

Golf has a habit of quickly bringing you back down to earth.