It must be the air in Gloucestershire but for the second successive year the Fuller’s London Pride Gold Medal winner hails from that county thanks to some splendid golf from Martin Neal.
The 46 year old transport and logistics manager from Bristol posted an amazing 39 Stableford points in the second round for a two-round tally of 66 off 16 handicap, finishing one clear of Philip Allen from Dorset and two ahead of John Hennessy from Surrey.
Neal (image © Leaderboard Photography), who began the day in joint 29th place after an opening 27 points, couldn’t believe he’d won. “It’s amazing, I’m dumbfounded,” he said. “After yesterday’s 27 points to come in with 39 is incredible.
“I just didn’t expect this but because the wind was much stronger today I went out to keep the ball low and to play sensibly. I also holed a few putts which I didn’t do yesterday. I also managed to keep out of the heather and only went into a few bunkers.
“I think the wind on the back nine caught out a lot of players but I managed to go round with the same ball today.”
Paul, who had his wife Mandy as caddie, was out in the middle of the field and finished a couple of hours before the final group. Even after he’d posted his score he was convinced someone would overtake him.
“Someone will come in with a better score,” he added, but it didn’t happen.
Many tried, especially Allen, who added 33 to his first round 32 to finish a point behind. The 45 year old from the Wareham club who, like Neal, was making his first visit to Woodhall Spa, was delighted to finish second.
“I feel like I’ve been beaten up by the course but it is a real test of golf,” said the two-handicapper.
It was an ill wind that blew nobody any good. Gusting up to 22mph, it this severely tested the handicap golfers, a fact reflected in the scoring.
If the first round was difficult, the second proved even worse as the wind gathered in strength and proved hard to handle.
Irishman Hennessy from Walton-on-Thames, off two at the Pyrford club, went round in four over par for his 34 points. But he was at home in the wind having been brought up on a links course in Cork.
“I always hit the ball low so I’m used to these conditions,” he said. “I also managed to get up-and-down from three bunkers, which is good around here,” added the 51-year-old financial advisor.
Arguably the shot of the day was produced by Keith Featherstone from the Castletown club on the Isle of Man. The 16 handicapper eagled the 322-yard par four 17th by holing his second shot with a pitching wedge for five points. “You’ve got to have one every year, haven’t you?” he said.