Saunton Golf Club - West Course
Thomas Burley is the English Mid Amateur champion. He lifted the title and the Logan Trophy after a dramatic two-hole playoff with defending champion Neill Williams from Surrey in overcast conditions at Saunton in Devon.
The pair had tied on 216, three over par, over the West Course after Bristol-based Burley had romped through the field with a closing 67, while Williams finished with a level-par 71.I’m very surprised to have won,” said 41-year-old Burley. “I thought I was too far behind to have a chance but I played well in the final round, had five birdies and wasn’t in much trouble.”
On the first playoff hole, Burley seemed to be in the driving seat as Williams pulled his approach into rough on a bank beside the green. From there he found a bunker and finished with a bogey five.
Burley’s second finished on the front fringe and it seemed just a formality to wrap up his victory. But he three-putted from around 30 feet to give Williams a second life.
Again at the 370-yard second, with the local fox looking on, Burley left himself with an even longer birdie putt with Williams on a down slope at the back of the green. But from there the Surrey man charged his third eight feet past the hole and made a second bogey.
However, although Burley left his ‘cricket pitch’ putt four feet short, he holed out for par to become champion.
“I thought I’d blown it after three-putting the first playoff hole,” added Burley. “Then at the second, my caddie said ‘don’t miss this one’ and I didn’t.
“I felt I had a chance of winning at the start of the week. But I thought I’d played myself out of it after shooting 74 and 75. Then I had a text from a friend saying ‘that’s not the Burley golf I know’. So I managed to get back in the groove today.”
Surrey-based Williams was philosophical about losing his grip on the title he won so well at Purdis Heath, Ipswich a year ago. He knew he needed to birdie the last two holes in normal play to win again and almost eagled the 17th.
That birdie meant he needed another at the last but missed the green by a distance only to pitch on and hole from 25 feet to make the playoff.
After the drama of the extra two holes, he said: “On the second playoff hole I allowed myself to be distracted by the noise coming from players on the other course and hit the putt well past. But you don’t win much with two bogeys, do you?”
The Logan represents Burley’s first national title. A county golfer for Wiltshire but playing out of Burnham & Berrow in Somerset and living in Bristol, he won the West of England Match Play Championship in 2004 and now runs his own financial planning company.
He is a family man with four young children, who have yet to get the golfing bug. “I took my two oldest daughters to the driving range last weekend to hit a few balls so we’ll have to see how it works out,” he added.
Another Surrey man James Wallis closed with 73 to finish third on 217 with second round leader Ian Crowther, who closed with 74, while 2006 champion Martin Young from Hampshire matched Burley’s 67 for equal fifth on 219.
A spectacular eagle-birdie finish saw Neill Williams crowned English Mid Amateur champion at a sun-drenched Ipswich Golf Club at Purdis Heath.
The 38 year old surveyor from Walton Heath posted a closing 68 for 206, seven under par, and a three-stroke winning margin over Steve Graham, who stormed through the field with a course record 64.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Williams. “I’m staggered by it all. I didn’t know I had that finish in me but winning a national title will be something to remember for a long time.”
He started the day a shot behind overnight leader Danny Curtis, his playing partner in the final game, and fell further behind with a bogey-five at the first. “It was just nerves but I got it back with a birdie at the second,” he added. Out in 35, Williams suddenly found himself ahead as Curtis was going backwards with two double-bogeys and a bogey in an outward 39.
But with Graham having set the bench mark at four under with his 64, Williams knew what he had to do. “I found out on the 16th tee that a 64 had been recorded which meant I had to birdie one of the last three holes,” added Williams.
“I found sand at the 16th and made par but I knew I had a chance at the long 17th. I hit three-wood, something I’d done all week, then six-iron to 18 feet and made it for eagle.”
His birdie at the last put the icing on the cake in only his second appearance in the championship and came after a somewhat nervous start.
“I was hitting it dreadfully on the range this morning and it wasn’t helped by the three putts on the first,” added Williams, “but I’m really chuffed. I felt I could compete and I had a chance if I could produce my best game.”
Graham’s record 64 was somewhat overshadowed by Williams’ finish but the Littlehampton secretary deserved second spot. “I didn’t play any worse than in my first round 76 but it all came together,” he said. “I said to my wife this morning that I had to shoot 65 to stand a chance and that’s the best round I’ve played for a long time but starting eight shots back, I wasn’t under any pressure. “I’ve been watching a Peter Cowan video for the past three weeks and remembered to ‘swing in balance’ and managed to hold on to it. I’m chuffed to bits.”
Richard Latham, the first round leader, finished with 72 for third place on 213, level par, while former winner Nigel Chesters was fourth a shot further back after a 71.
Curtis, a legend in Kent golf, stumbled to 78 for fifth spot on 215 adding: “I didn’t play well but Neill deserved to win. He played superbly.”
Perhaps the unluckiest player on the final day was David Brown from Sherwood Forest, who was forced to withdraw after damaging his back removing his clubs from the boot of his car. He was lying equal 13th on three under par.
The format for the Championship is 54 Holes Stroke Play, with the leading 45 competitors and those tying for 45th place playing the final 18 holes on the third day.
2010 Sherwood Forest D. Holmes 219
2011 Ipswich N. Williams 206
2012 Saunton (West) T. Burley 216