IN the end, it was the kind of procession that could have been accompanied by bunting, a royal wave and the commissioning of some commemorative dish cloots but Chris Kelly was still relieved to get over the finishing line as he won the M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship for a third time at Gleneagles.

The 40-year-old, who led by a commanding five shots heading into the final round over the King’s course, closed with a three-under 67 for a 13-under aggregate of 197 and a six shot victory over Paul O’Hara, Greg McBain and the fast-finishing veteran, Robert Arnott.

Kelly’s success was the largest winning margin in the Tartan Tour’s flagship event since he won this title for the first time by seven shots over the neighbouring PGA Centenary course back in 2003.

Loading article content

It wasn’t all plain sailing, mind you. Playing partner O’Hara managed to stir up a little dose of the heebie-jeebies when he reduced the leeway to just two shots on the back nine.

It was only a temporary scare, though, and Kelly coasted home to pick up the £9,500 first prize as he joined the likes of Sam Torrance, Bernard Gallacher, John Panton and Eric Brown in a glittering group of players who have won the national crown three times or more.

“Any win is nice and I’m just as delighted with this win as I was with my first in 2003 and my second in 2015,” said the Glasgow man.

All week, Kelly had been expressing a cautious outlook despite his position of authority at the top. When he increased his lead to seven shots through seven holes of his final round, there didn’t appear to be any great need for vigilance but in this game it’s never over until caps are removed and handshakes are exchanged on the last.

O’Hara kept chipping away and, having birdied 11 and 12, he got to within two shots when he picked up another shot on the 14th after Kelly made a bogey on the 13th. “All of a sudden it’s two and I’m thinking ‘oh no, here we go’,” Kelly admitted.

With O’Hara now forcing Kelly to peer anxiously over his shoulder as if he had just heard a tin can mysteriously rattle down a dark alley, the leader tempered the growing apprehension by plonking a 6-iron into the 15th to two feet and making birdie. “That was crucial,” he added.

Kelly swiftly tightened his grip on affairs at the 16th with an 8-iron into a few feet for another birdie as O’Hara stumbled home with a couple of bogeys which halted his advances.

“Paul had me going at one point but I played the last few holes very well,” said the new champion.

Motherwell man O’Hara, whose fine season on the domestic front was rewarded with the order of merit title, had to settle for the runners-up spot for the second year running after a 68.

“I thought I had a wee chance when I got to within two but on the 16th I hit my worst iron shot of the week and then three-putted 17th and that was it,” he said.

Arnott, the oldest swinger in town at a sprightly 54, closed with a 64 as he posted his best finish in the national championship after some 30 years on the Tartan Tour.

On a dull, dry day with no wind and preferred lies, the conditions were ideal for those looking to mount robust offensives.

Chris Doak, the Scottish champion in 2010, and Grantown’s Gavin Hay both showed what could be achieved as they fired eight-under 62s to come hurtling up from the lower reaches of the order at the start of the day and into the top-10.