The three-man team from Hayling in Hampshire staged a tremendous late charge to win the English Champion Club title by two shots at Stoke by Nayland Golf Club, on the Suffolk/Essex border.
After yesterday’s first round on the Gainsborough course, Toby Burden, Richard Harris and Kevin Hickman were 19-over par, in 16th place and 14 shots behind the halfway leaders, Woburn.
Today, they were still 19-over par after completing 27 holes, but they zipped through the final nine in a team total of eight-under par and rocketed to the top of the leaderboard. Burden and Hickman both went round in four-under 67 while Harris added level par 71 for a total of 11-over par (image © Leaderboard Photography).
They finished two clear of Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and Woburn, from Berks, Bucks & Oxon, who tied on 13-over par. Spalding, Lincolnshire, and Henbury, Gloucestershire, were a further shot back.
This is Hayling’s first victory in this prestigious championship and now the team will represent England in the European Men’s Club Trophy at Aroeira Golf Club, Portugal, from 20-22 October.
Harris remarked: “Everyone at the club is really happy and excited. For me I’m still asking if it’s really happened because we were so far behind after the first round – and now we’ll be representing England.”
Burden was first to stake their claim, and his 67 improved on his opening round by 11 shots. Hayling is a links course and, with Friday’s practice round washed out by heavy rain, he had initially struggled to adapt to the hilly, tree-lined course where water is a feature.
“But I got used to it and went at everything today. Why not? We had nothing to lose,” he said. Between them, the team devised a game plan for today which Burden stuck to and was well-rewarded with five birdies and just one bogey.
“We knew we’d have to improve by about eight shots. I’ve done four of them!” he said after signing his card.
Harris was next and his 71 and also improved on his first day score by 11 shots. He was on the closing holes when he learned from the on-course scoring that the team was in contention and despite the nerves he birdied the long 16th and pulled off a great par save from 25 yards right of the 18th.
“When we started playing we were just going to shoot the score and see what happened. But the pressure starts to build when you know you are in contention” he said.
Finally Hickman, who was one-over yesterday, completed the fightback with his bogey-free 67. “I didn’t really know what my team-mates were doing, I just focussed on my own game and did what I could to see if we could come first. I played solid and didn’t make any mistakes.”
He was level par to the turn before playing the back nine in four-under with a birdie on the 11th and three in a row from the 13th. “We needed something!” said Hickman, who has been a Hayling member for only 18 months.
He was playing alongside Worksop’s Andy Oates, who went round in three-under 68 after an eventful round which confirmed his club as runners-up on countback. He chipped in twice, for an eagle on the sixth and a birdie on the eighth to reach the turn in two-under.
Worksop have won the championship once before, in 1993, and have been regulars at the final in recent years with frequent top ten places. “It’s the best competition because anything can happen and it’s a great weekend. We bring our families and supporters and it’s brilliant,” said Oates. His team-mates were Martin Foulkes, a past winner of the English mid-amateur championship, and Keir Stockdale.
Woburn’s team of Gary Mumford, Jack Bartlett and Harry Noton set the halfway pace with their opening score of five over par. Today they were eight-over, slipping back from top place.
Spalding’s Simon Richardson topped the individual table on six under-par after rounds of 70 and today’s bogey-free 66. He was two-under going out with birdies on the 1st and 5th and then had three in a row from the 14th. “I birdied the first today and that was it,” he said. “I probably left four or five shots out there out there as well.
“It’s disappointing the team has come up a bit short but from a personal point of view it’s nice to shoot the scores.” He finished the event three clear of Hayling’s Hickman and four ahead of Henbury’s Nick Day.
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Caption: The winning team from Hayling Golf Club (from left) Kevin Hickman, Toby Burden and Richard Harris.