England’s Josh Hilleard found the touch of Houdini to seal a one-shot win in the Berkhamsted Trophy on four-under par.
He led for most of the 72-hole event at Berkhamsted Golf Club in Hertfordshire, but was closely challenged throughout, notably by Lincolnshire’s Simon Richardson, the eventual runner –up; Norfolk’s Jack Yule and fellow England A squad member, Will Enefer of Shropshire & Herefordshire.
But when it counted, Hilleard (Image © Leaderboard Photography) discovered the magic touch which kept him ahead. “The last round was very eventful, it was my worst ball striking round but I had a few hole-outs from strange positions,” said the 21-year-old from Farrington Park in Somerset.
On the eighth, for example, his tee shot finished in trees and he had to chip out, but a restricted follow through meant his ball ended in a bush. Fortunately the bush was in ground under repair and he received a free drop – and promptly holed his 60-yard shot to the green for an unlikely par. “It was a bit of a surprise!” he said.
He followed up on the 14th when he holed his second shot from about 100 yards for an eagle two. “It makes it easy!” he laughed.
From then on he parred in, knowing that he needed a four on the last to beat Richardson (Spalding). “That tests your pressure game, but that’s good, it what we live and play for,” said Hilleard.
He played his way into the lead with a first round score of three-under 68 which put him one clear. He followed up with 71 which tied him with Jack Yule (Middleton Hall) at the halfway stage; 72 in the third round which left him tied with Will Enefer (Wrekin); and finally 69 to edge in ahead of Simon Richardson.
Kealan Lowe (Wheatley) was third on two under; while Charlie Strickland (Ham Manor) and Enefer shared fourth place on one-under.
Hilleard’s win marked a return to form after he was disappointed by his last outing in the Spanish amateur. “It’s a nice bounce back,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of lessons to get my head clear and we had our squad training at Quinta do Lago, which was a bit of an eye opener and changed how I will approach tournaments from now on.”
This is his first individual win of the 2016 season but he has already helped England to victory in the Costa Ballena Quadrangular Tournament against Spain, Germany and Finland.
The tournament was extended this year from 36 holes, played on one day, to 72 holes, over three days, in a bid to gain world ranking status for the event, which boasts illustrious past winners such as Sandy Lyle and Luke Donald.
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