Opens: West of England Stroke Play

STORMING FINISH: Champion Charlie Thornton with Saunton captain Trevor Reynolds

Closing 65 sees Charlie Thornton surge through field at Saunton

OPENS: Monday, April 25th

FORMAT: 72-hole Strokeplay

A high-class closing 65 from Yorkshireman Charlie Thornton secured him another major open title as the West of England Stroke Play caught fire on the final day.

Nobody broke par on the first two days as high winds and tough pin positions tested the high-class field to its limits but calmer/warmer conditions yesterday set the scene for a remarkable conclusion. Firstly England Boys player Sam Potter (Kedleston Park) jumped into contention with a bogey-free 65 (-6) and then the eventual champion followed suit after lunch to pip England Men’s squad member Jack Brooks (The Mere) by a shot for the title.

Thornton, who plans to turn pro in June unless he wins the British Amateur at Royal Lytham/St Annes Old Links, was primarily playing the Devon venue in prepartion for next month’s Brabazon (May 19-22).

But the 23-year-old was mighty relieved to discover Brooks, who was playing in the third last group, had just failed to catch him.

“I had been waiting in the clubhouse for while and saw Jack (Brooks) had quite a spring in his step so knew he must have had a good score on the go.”

Thornton then watched as his old England A team-mate left his birdie putt at 18 agonisingly short. One more roll and the two would have been tied on five over. For Brooks there was the satisfaction of playing “some good golf” as he went bogey-free in the fourth round to finish a shot ahead of fellow Cheshire-based player Daniel Hayes (Bramhall) while Potter closed with a 72 to finish two shots further back in fourth.

Thornton also paid a small tribute to his final-day playing partner Lewis Beer (Exeter) as the birdies started to flow yesterday afternoon. The Devon golfer shot 67 despite being two over par after seven while Thornton came home in 31 and that included him missing a four footer for a two at the 17th.

FLYING FINISH: Fulford golfer Charlie Thornton

“We were definitely feeding off each other, especially at the start of the back nine. Lewis played some great stuff after a slow start.”

The eventual champion started the final round four behind Hayes and a “terrible tee shot” at the first threatened to end his challenge before it had started.

Luckily for the former Berkhamsted Trophy winner he found his ball, hacked it back into play and pinged it to ten feet before sinking a huge, momentum-generating par putt.

His first of seven birdies in the final round would follow at the next, sinking another ten footer while another excellent ‘rescue’ par at the fourth laid the platform for his second birdie at the fifth, where he drained a 15-footer.

His only bogey of the round came courtesy of a three-putt at the seventh but again he responded in impressive fashion, knocking in a 12-footer to get back to nine over for the tournament.

The real fireworks started at the 11th where a successful birdie putt from 14 feet was followed straight after by another one from 18 feet. He then cashed in at the short par five 15th by getting up and down for his four and his seventh birdie of the afternoon was never in doubt once he fired one in to 18 inches at the 16th.

Before starting the fourth round he had targeted beating Potter’s exceptional third-round effort and, despite the near miss at 17th, consoled himself with the thought that a par at the last would probably be enough to win it.

And his belief proved eerily accurate.

In the morning, with the top 40 having made the cut, Potter stormed into contention in remarkable fashion. He started the day seven behind halfway leaders Zachary Chegwidden (Orsett) and Hayes but his bogey-free effort meant he went into the final round one back of the Bramhall player. 

Leading scores (par 71)
1) Charlie Thornton (Fulford) 77, 75, 72, 65, 289 (+5)
2) Jack Brooks (The Mere) 72, 78, 73, 67, 290 (+6)
3) Daniel Hayes (Bramhall) 75, 74, 71, 71, 291 (+7)
4) Samuel Potter (Kedleston Park) 78, 78, 65, 72, 293 (+9)
5) Edward Richardson (Redlibbets) 71, 78, 74, 73, 296 (+12)
6) Lewis Beer (Exeter) 79, 74, 77, 67, 297 (+13)
7) Eliot Baker (Tiverton) 76, 75, 73, 74, 298 (+14)
8) Max Hopkins (Bishops Stortford) 77, 77, 75, 72, 301 (+17)
9) Ben McFadden (Castle Royle) 82, 73, 73, 73, 301 (+17)
10) Zach Chegwidden (Orsett) 77, 72, 72, 80, 301 (+17)
For full scores click here