Yorkshire’s Clive Downing completed an emotional rollercoaster today when he won the England Golf Gold Medal to become the men’s handicap golfer of the year.
Downing, from Hillsborough Golf Club (image © Leaderboard Photography), had a net score of four-under 68 on the Red course at Frilford Heath in Oxfordshire – and came off the course in tears, revealing: “It’s been an emotional day because my wife has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”
His wife, Jane, who was diagnosed in the last few weeks, accompanied him to the championship and walked the last nine holes as he played his way to success.
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever won in golf,” said Downing, who was playing off six handicap. “It’s been fantastic and everyone has been so supportive of Jane.”
He finished two shots ahead of a group of three players who had net scores of two-under 70: Graham Anstey (The Kendleshire), Darren Booker (Tadmarton Heath) and Roman Toloczko (Scraptoft). The host club’s William Ayres took fifth place on 73.
The Gold Medal was open to the 2015 medal winners at English golf clubs and the finalists all won through a regional round to take their place at Frilford Heath, where the championship was part of England Golf Week. This five-day festival of golf included a host of finals for handicap players, involving over 500 competitors in total.
Downing was originally third reserve for the Gold Medal final, but once he got his place he made no mistakes.
He went round in a gross score of two-over par 74 today, which he described as “fantastic”, especially after a disappointing practice round. Downing’s short game was brilliant, with a chip-in on the long sixth for an eagle three and two long putts holed, both from off the green.
He enjoys medal golf, commenting: “It’s a good test of mind and it’s character building. I had a double bogey, but then came back par, par.”
Graham Anstey came to Frilford hoping to finish in the top half and far exceeded his expectations. He started nervily on the 10th hole, but after avoiding the trees with his tee shot, he settled down and played steadily – except for the 17th where he pitched into the hole from a bunker for a birdie three. “That was a bonus,” he said.
Anstey enjoyed the championship experience, adding: “Off our handicaps, playing an event like this is basically at the top of our game and something we don’t really dream of getting into.”
His playing partner, Roman Toloczko (Scraptoft) had an identical score, also playing off 13 handicap – and similar views. It was his first time in a national final and he described the experience as: “A taste of the big time. It’s a mirror image of the big tournament we watch and it’s nice to have the same ambience.”
They were joined on 70 by Darren Booker, who plays off six and put together a steady round, helped by a stroke of luck on the 18th (his 9th) where he managed a ‘miracle’ par and a closing birdie on his last hole. “It’s great to be at the top of the leaderboard in a big event on a tough course,” he said.
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