A birdie-three on the 17th hole provided the key to Mark Willis winning the Fullers London Pride Gold Medal in the closest finish in the history of the 17-year history of the popular event for club golfers.
It help the 34 year old from the Kendleshire club in Bristol to return 34 Stableford points over the Hotchkin course at Woodhall Spa for an aggregate of 70. That left him tied with playing partner Aiden Tanner from Norwich, who also signed for 34. So a card countback was needed to decide the winner.
Both scored 15 points on the back nine, both recorded ten over the back six, but Willis’ birdie at 17 helped give him eight points over the back three compared to Tanner’s seven.
It couldn’t have been closer and Willis even managed to get up-and-down from behind a bunker then sink a 15-foot putt on the last hole to save par or the first prize would have slipped away.
“That was the longest putt I’d holed all day,” said Willis. “But I’m very surprised but proud to have won. I’m surprised because my game has not been good coming into the event so I didn’t think I’d be in the hunt.
“But I think the course and the wind helped me as it made conditions difficult for everyone else. My putter was cold all weekend but it came good when I needed it.”
Compared to the first day, conditions improved with a lot of sunshine but the wind gradually increased to be quite strong towards the end, a factor reflected in the scoring.
Tanner, the 16 year old from the Costessey Park club, was naturally disappointed but he was disappointed by his form over the back nine. “I messed up on the back nine but Mark played well and deserved to win.”
Third place was also decided on countback, Rob Sims from Bulbury Woods in Dorset edging out overnight leader Justin Brassell after both finished with 69 points.
Sims, 60 year old warehouseman from Corfe Mullen, recorded 36 points in his second round to Brassell’s 32 and said: “The putts went in today. But I also drove the ball well and my plan was to play for position and I only found two bunkers.”
The nine-handicapper had four birdies on his card but was annoyed to not score on the final hole.