Burley overcomes defending champion in dramatic playoff
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.” (image © Tom Ward)
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.
Final scores, photos and interviews are available on the Championships Section of the England Golf website, www.englandgolf.org.