Singh Brar comes out on top in marathon playoff at Berkhamsted


England boy international Jack Singh Brar laid down a marker for the season by winning the annual Berkhamsted Trophy after a marathon three-way playoff at the challenging Hertfordshire venue.

For the second successive year, extra time was needed after Singh Brar (image © Tom Ward Photography)  finished the 36 holes on 140, two under par, tied with Norfolk’s Luke Johnson and Gary Oliver from Essex.

All three had par fours at the opening two playoff holes, the first and 18th, but when they returned to the first Johnson’s three putts meant goodbye.

Back to the 18th, both Singh Brar and Oliver hit the green in regulation but after Oliver secured another par, Singh Brar rolled in his 11-foot birdie putt for victory.

At 16 years and almost five months, the Hampshire lad is believed to be the youngest ever winner of the trophy, which bears the names of such former winners as Sandy Lyle, Luke Donald and Gary Wolstenholme. But he wasn’t overawed by his success.

“It’s a good start to the season for me and will give me more confidence for my next event,” he said. “I didn’t do anything special today, just played good golf but there is still room for improvement.”

With the players enjoying the sun on their backs at last but still with a chilly wind, Singh Brar shared the lead at lunch with Josh Loughrey and Sam Robertshawe after a four-birdie 69 but had to settle for a level-par 71 in the afternoon. And that included a 25-footer at the last to make the playoff.

Johnson did the same in a second round 69 but 36-year-old Oliver, a reinstated professional and Essex county player, was perhaps the surprise packet. But he deserved to make the playoff after returning a best-of-the-day 68, matched by Woburn’s John Kemp.

Northumberland’s Alex Dixon might also have made the playoff but his birdie putt on the last green finished alongside the cup for a 70 and 141.

The afternoon was also marked by a hole-in-one from Sam Whitaker of Blankney Golf Club in Lincolnshire who sank his four-iron tee shot at the 184-yard fifth hole. It was the second ‘ace’ of his career but his first in competition.

But the day belonged to Singh Brar, an under 16 cap for England before stepping up to boys level in last year’s Boys Home Internationals in Ireland.

He has also made his mark this year in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney, finished runner-up in the Faldo Asian Grand Final in China and qualified for the match play in the recent French International Boys Championship. Not only that, it was his first visit to Berkhamsted.

Leading final scores:

140 J Singh Brar (Brokenhurst Manor 69 71, L Johnson (King’s Lynn) 71 69, G Oliver (Hainault Forest) 72 68 (Singh Brar won playoff at fourth extra hole)

141 A Dixon (City of Newcastle) 71 70, J Loughrey (Wrag Barn) 69 72

142 S Dodds (Coventry) 72 70, A Chesters (Hawkstone Park) 70 72; 143 C Shinkwin (Moor Park) 73 70