MUSSELBURGH’S Benn McLeod has become the second cack-handed player to put his name on the Lothians roll of honour in the past decade.
Nine years after John Gallagher won the LGA Championship, the 25-year-old Musselburgh member has topped the 2012 Order of Merit.
Helped by wins at Royal Musselburgh, his old club, and Silverknowes, McLeod finished more than 150 points clear of the chasing pack in the Damm Environmental-sponsored event.
“It was only after I had finished third at Gullane in June that I started to take notice of the Order of Merit standings,” admitted the winner.
“Even then, I wasn’t expecting to come out on top but I knew I was in with a chance after winning at Gullane then finishing second at Bathgate the following day.
“Winning at Slverknowes, where I shot rounds of three-under and six-under, was the icing on the cake, especially as it was the first time I had played there.”
McLeod attributed his success to a combination of him having moved from Royal Musselburgh to Monktonhall and also being able to play and practice at Gullane, where he’s a greenkeeper.
“There’s been a big improvement in my game since I became a member at Monktonhall, which is longer than Royal Musselburgh and, in my opinion, is also a tougher track,” he said.
“Due to the fact I found myself hitting wedges into most greens at Royal Musselburgh, my long game had started to suffer so that was the main reason behind the move.
“My overall game has become more consistent and that is reflected in the fact I’m now comfortable playing off plus two.”
McLeod served his greenkeeping apprenticeship at Monktonhall and had a spell at Archerfield before joining the 24-strong staff at Gullane around four years ago.
“We get a membership through working there and in the summer after finishing for the day I head straight to the practice area,” he added.
“That has definitely helped as my game has come on leaps and bounds. I’d say my putting has improved the most. From ten feet in I pretty much nailed everything most of the season.”
Having made his mark at Lothians level, McLeod is now setting his sights on the Scottish scene and, like Gallagher, has no intention of changing the grip he’s used all his life.
“I’ve never really had any lessons and I’m not someone who likes being too technical,” he said. “Norman Huguet, the pro at Musselburgh, gives me some tips now and then and I’m happy to keep it at that.
“I know John Gallagher won the Scottish Amateur and also reached the British Amateur before going on to turn professional.
“For me, winning the Lothians Order of Merit is a great achievement and, as I keep trying to get better, my target now is to try and get into some of the Scottish events next year.”