It requires something special to win major championships and Ben Stow delivered that aplenty to win the Brabazon Trophy in record style in front of a cheering crowd at Seaton Carew.
Birdies at the final two holes for a record-equalling 66 gave the Wiltshire man an aggregate of 278, 14 under par, and left him just a shot ahead of his England team-mates Ryan Evans and Ashley Chesters.
“This is an amazing feeling after an amazing round,” he said. “This is a massive win for me. Apart from the Amateur Championship it doesn’t come much bigger than to win this English title.
“Some days it is your day and it was mine today. I putted phenomenally. It just looked like the ball would drop in all day long. I had no idea how many I was under par but today was up there with some of the best golf I’ve ever played.”
Stow (image © Leaderboard Photography) is back from college in the United States but did his experience there help provide this triumph? “I won in South Carolina in a playoff and to have that experience certainly helped over those last few holes.”
The leaders certainly enjoyed the better conditions. The day began dull with a chilly wind but as the sun broke through to the birdies began to flow. Stow started tied on seven under with Evans and Ireland’s Cormac Sharvin. But he took a grip early on with birdies at the first two holes, set a hot pace by going out in 30 strokes and was soon the man to chase.
His biggest threat seemed to come from Chesters. The European champion had three birdies in a front nine of 32 and after another at 11 he reeled off four-in-a-row from the 13th. That put him on 14 under and he might be the Brabazon champion now if it hadn’t been for a lone bogey at the par four 17th.
“I was between clubs and pulled my shot into heavy rough which proved costly,” he said. “But I holed a couple of key putts. The one for birdie at 15 from 50 feet was probably heading off the green until it dropped. Then at 16 I sank a 20-footer for birdie.
“I thought Ben, playing behind me, was also making birdies so I just tried to get as low as possible. If it wasn’t for that bogey at 17 that was the best round I’ve played. When I won the European I shot 65, seven under, and didn’t hit a bad shot. But there were one or two iffy ones today.”
Evans, who had seven birdies in his 67, was naturally disappointed but he paid tribute to his team-mate. “Hats off to Ben, it was a great finish by him,” he said. “Coming down the last I heard the cheering but I didn’t know if it was Ben or Craig Ross had holed for birdie.
“If I had shot 67 anywhere else I’d expect to win but if someone had offered me second place before the start I’d have taken it. “I felt it was going to be my week but not winning could put me out of the running for a place in the Eisenhower Trophy team. That’s important but we’ll have to see.”
Scotland’s Craig Ross maintained his good form by returning a closing 70 for 283, nine under par, for fourth place while his compatriot Daniel Young was one of three in fifth on 284.
Apart from Stow and Chesters, there was another 66 produced by Irish international Gary Hurley which saw him storm through the field and also finish in fifth place. “The felt more comfortable on the greens today,” he said. “They were less were more receptive after the rain and I managed to hole a few putts.”
The 21 year old from West Waterford certainly did, finding an eagle on the 11th to go with his seven birdies.
England’s Michael Saunders finished in equal 12th place on 288 and won the Scrutton Jug for the best aggregate from the Brabazon and Berkshire Trophies, while Ireland’s Moynihan, the other to finish fifth, collected the Henriques Salver for the best performance by a player from Britain and Ireland aged under 20.
But the week belonged the Stow. He was always on the leaderboard and his victory meant he kept the trophy in Wiltshire hands by succeeding county team-mate Jordan Smith as champion.