A birdie four on the final hole thanks to a three-foot putt saw Bobby Keeble win the County Champions Tournament at a wet and windy Woodhall Spa and get the monkey off his back.
The 18 year old England boys international from Essex carded a second successive 73 for 146, level par, and a one stroke winning margin over Yorkshire champion Chris Halley, who signed for 79.
Keeble (image copyright John Thomson Photography) came into the event with a string of second places to his name including losing a playoff for the English Boys under 18 Championship at Royal Cinque Ports last year. So the victory was something of a relief.
On an afternoon that saw shots shed in monotonous regularity by the first round front-runners, the lead changed frequently and it was anyone’s title to win. But Keeble proved the exception to the rule and kept his game under control.
“Finally to win a big one feels good,” said Keeble. “I didn’t think I was anywhere near the lead and was out of contention as I didn’t putt well for the first 14 holes. But I holed a 20-footer for birdie on 15, saw the scoreboard and realised I was still in with a chance.
“I had a solid two putt on 16 and my ball shaved the hole for a birdie on 17. I thought I needed to birdie at last to make a playoff but I’m glad it was for the win.”
No one wanted extra holes in the miserable conditions, cold with frequent rain and squally winds, so Keeble’s birdie was a godsend. But it was also agony for Halley, who was in majestic form during the morning when he led with a superb five-under-par 68.
That included eagles on three of the par fives along with three birdies. But he slipped to a second round 79 for 147 then had to wait to see if he would be caught.
“I missed short putts on the opening three holes then bogeyed four and five,” he lamented. “I didn’t hit it anywhere near as good as I had in the morning,” added the joiner from Whitby.
Halley led by a shot from Kent’s Alfie Plant at lunch but he also fell by the wayside, finding a double bogey six at 16 and running up a nine on the last for an 83 and joint third on 152.
But in the end the day belonged to Keeble who found himself in the champion’s position after a long wait.
“Some people told me I should get the monkey off my back but I wasn’t feeling that way,” added Keeble. “It’s a nice way to end my season on a winning note and now it means a lot of work over the winter.” It’s a good bet he’ll recall this victory many times over that time.