English Senior champion Stephen East finished runner-up in the Senior Amateur Championship, finishing four strokes behind the winner, American Brady Exber, at Ganton in North Yorkshire.
East (Image © Leaderboard Photography), who won the English title at Matfen Hall in Northumberland in June, carded a closing 79 for 228, while Exber returned 78 for 224. Three players shared third spot, Americans Michael Mercier and John McClure and Northumberland’s Tony McLure.
With the wind gusting up to 40mph, it proved a taxing final 18 holes for the entire field. But Exber, who was fifth on his debut in 2011 and sixth in 2012, was never seriously threatened.
East, from Moortown in Leeds, admitted it had been “a tough battle” but was happy to finish second on his Championship debut. A newcomer to senior’s events after turning 55 last November, he has already won the Spanish Seniors Open beside English title this season.
Exber, who started with six straight pars, had a poor run over the back nine, dropping several shot over the closing holes but his rivals were doing the same in the gusting winds.
“I was playing great but then made the mistake of looking at the leaderboard at the 13th,” he said. “I was seven ahead and then I stupidly stopped playing the course and started to play the scoreboards. And that doesn’t work.
“But I really think this is the hardest day I have had on a golf course. I said to my friend and caddie, Doug, going down the 15th ‘this is all the nasty stuff I’ve seen on TV."
George Zahringer, the defending champion, made an appearance on the leaderboard when he reached the turn in two-under-par. He had four birdies – at the second, fifth, seventh and ninth.
But the American, who played in the 2003 Walker Cup at Ganton and won this title at Royal Aberdeen 12 months ago, came to grief in a second half of 44. He shot 81 and finished in a tie for 20th.
Mercier moved into third place thanks to a 76, while John McClure had an 80 and Tony McLure an 82.
McLure opened with a 70 and was the only man all week to break par. He looked set for second place when he stood just three shots behind playing partner Exber with two holes to play. But he had a double-bogey five after a wayward tee shot at the 235-yard par three 17th and also took a double-bogey at the 18th.
It was a delighted and relieved Exber, who raised the trophy after the final round. “No one could be happier than me to win this title,” he said. “Ganton is a great course and I’ll definitely be back to defend at Royal County Down next year”.