Mark Collins became the first Kent golfer in 24 years to win the English Men’s County Champion of Champions Tournament when he upstaged his more fancied rivals over the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa.
The 19 year old from the Chart Hills club carded a four-under-par 69 in the second round a five-under tally of 141, finishing two strokes ahead of Durham champion Richard Aisbitt and Martin Young from Hampshire, Aisbitt sealing second spot on countback.
It was Collins’ second major win of the season following his victory in the Tillman Trophy at East Sussex National while his success denied Hampshire a clean sweep after the boys and senior titles were won by the south coast county.
“This win means all the hard work I’ve put in has paid off and hopefully will lead to bigger things,” said Collins (image © Leaderboard Photography). “It’s been a while since a Kent player won this which is surprising as we’ve had a bunch of good players in recent years.
“But I fancied my chances. I have been working with professional Jason Barnes at my club and I have beaten him a couple of times so I came here confident.
“This afternoon I didn’t make any mistakes; I didn’t drop a shot and just kept the ball on the fairways. It’s my first time at Woodhall Spa and this is a really challenging course. It makes you think all the way round,” added the Kent county player.
Bob Sloman back in 1990 was the last Kent player to win the Men’s County Champions title and even then he shared it with Lincolnshire’s Paul Streeter. So Collins went one better this time, his four birdies being joined by 14 pars on a perfect card.
Aisbitt’s second place on countback over Young was due to his better back nine of 36 to Young’s 37 in round two. The Durham man had four birdies in his 71 along with two bogeys.
Young, who was hoping to complete a Hampshire hat-trick, had four birdies and an eagle in his 71 but also dropped four shots. “I had ten birdies and an eagle on the day for three under so it was a bit up-and-down,” said Young.
“I putted well but I also had a couple of three putts which didn’t help. It would have been nice to have completed a Hampshire clean sweep but I’ve never played in this wind at Woodhall. It came from a different direction today.”
Oliver Farrell from Worcestershire was another to return 71 with four birdies for 145 and fourth place. “I was more in control off the tee this afternoon and I managed my game well,” he said. “But my iron play was the best part of my game,” added the 18 year old from Evesham.
Matthew Cryer, the former England international from Warwickshire, one of the pre-tournament favourites, finished in joint ninth place on 150, while Leicestershire’s David Gibson was handicapped by foot and knee injuries and finished at the back of the field on 160.