Day Three – Men’s Amateur: Eagles galore as wonderful Wharton grabs the headlines

One unbelievable hole of match play golf summed up the quality on show at day three of the 2020 English Men’s Amateur Championship – as well as highlighting the fabulous highs and agonising lows of competitive action.

In the thick of the battle, Harrison Ottley-Woodd and Jack Cope – direct rivals in the round of 64 – halved the par four 16th with eagles after holing out from 115 and 98 yards respectively.

Then, as if the day of play on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa needed any extra drama, 59-year-old Paul Wharton proved why  sometimes the combination of talent and experience can get the better of ability and youth.

Wharton – winner of the Woodhall Spa club championship on Saturday  – only entered this event because it was the only way he’d get to play at his home track this week!

However, his win against current England international Sam Bairstow and a man 38 years his junior now puts him into Friday’s last 32.

First up came the odds-defying exhibition of golf provided by Cope from the Players Club and Ottley-Woodd of Cotswold Hills (pictured together below).

Having holed out for an eagle two at the par four 15th hole to get back to being just one down, Ottley-Woodd then proceeded to fire a wedge from 115 yards into the hole at the 16th to make it back-to-back eagles.

Thinking he had levelled the game, Ottley-Woodd then watched in disbelief as Cope also fired his approach shot from the fairway into the cup for yet another eagle.

That kept Cope’s nose out in front and he was able to finish the match off at the 18th.

Cope – who turns 21 tomorrow  – said: “I’ve never seen such a thing before – or even heard of it happening.

“Luckily I wasn’t the one in his position.

“I don’t know how I’d have felt. I actually said to him that I was surprised two balls could fit in the hole with the sponge insert at the bottom of the cup!

“It’s my 21st birthday tomorrow so this is an early present. It will be a tough birthday with potentially 36 holes to play in the heat, but it could also be a rewarding one too.”

Wharton’s performance confirmed that golf is far from a young man’s game.

“I’m surprised as much as anything,” said Wharton with a broad smile.

“I thought this was practice for the English Seniors next week. It was a couple of medal rounds in the bag that I otherwise wouldn’t have had!

“I was drawn against an England international and that was something special.

“To win is incredible.

“What a place Woodhall Spa is – we have great members here who have brought my game on in the last two years and I’m lucky to have this as a home club.

“The last time I got to this stage was in 1992.

“I packed up golf in 1995 as my kids were growing up and didn’t play again until five years ago.

“My kids were very talented water skiiers. My daughter was junior world champion so golf went on hold. When they went college in 2014 I started playing again.

“I’ve now probably shot my bolt for the Seniors next week! But I’ve had great fun and played a really nice man in Sam – I’m sorry for him, but pleased I won.”

George Holland from Southport and Ainsdale was another man celebrating after he conjured up a noteworthy win against current Brabazon champion Ben Schmidt.

Holland won on the 17th hole and was able to reflect on a job well done against the Yorkshireman who had hoped to celebrate his 18th birthday with a win.

He added: “I know Ben’s qualities, but I just thought I was playing well and told myself to keep doing what I was doing all week . I rolled it nicely on the greens and that always helps.”

Elsewhere, the top qualifier from the stroke play, Joe Long, defeated Josh Hill to keep his strong week going.

There were also wins for fellow England internationals Ben Jones, Arron Edwards-Hill, Jake Bolton, Charlie Thornton, Sam Broadhurst and Max Martin.

Full results from today’s play and details of Friday’s round of 32 matches can be found on the English Amateur Championship homepage

Main photograph: Leaderboard