Devon: Men’s County Championship

GREAT PARTNERSHIP: Sam Williams (left) and his caddy Paul Eaton

Sam ends Warren club’s 97-year drought

DEVON: Wednesday Sept 29th

FORMAT: 36-hole strokeplay/2 rounds of matchplay

Sam Williams’ secured the Devon County Championship for the first time at East Devon on Sunday night, ending his club’s 97-year wait for a winner in the event.

In fact it was a great weekend for The Warren (Dawlish) as the 24-year-old combined with Benjamin Sclater and Jeremy Binch to take the team title (Gold Medal).

But for Sam the big one came the day after. After taking the fourth and final spot from the 36-hole strokeplay qualifier on Saturday, he defeated top seed Peter Lawrence (Woodbury Park) 5&4 in the morning semi-final and then saw off home player David Blick by one hole. The last county champion from The Warren was KF Fradgley in 1924, the first year the competition was staged.

“I was really pleased with how I played,” said Sam, who runs Starcross Golf with his father. “In the semi-final and final I hit 29 of 32 greens in regulation and only lost three holes.”

The 24-year-old didn’t lose a hole in his last-four clash with top seed Lawrence, who finished three shots clear of the pack in qualifying.

Sam was four up after eight and by the time the match finished on the 14th green, he was two under par for his round.

After lunch he started in a similar vein against Blick, chipping in from the back of the fifth to go three up although the East Devon player got one back at the next with an excellent birdie, holing out from 10 feet.

The players exchanged holes a few times around the turn with Sam three putting the 13th to go back to two up.

GOLDEN EFFORT: The victorious Warren team of Jeremy Binch (left), Benjamin Sclater (centre) and Sam Williams

And the long-time leader maintained that gap with nerve-jangling pars on 15 and 16 and looked set to close out the match at the penultimate hole as he found the fairway with his drive while his playing partner drove into a gorse bush.

However Blick hit an excellent recovery to within 50 yards of the green and then pitched to a foot while his partner’s approach came up short and rolled back down the hill. Sam’s third then came to rest 10 feet from pin and he couldn’t hole the par putt meaning the gap was finally down to one.

At the 18th, a driveable par four, both players laid up and the leader hit a “nervy” wedge to 30 feet while Blick hit a much better shot to 12 feet.

Sam cosied his birdie putt up to within gimme range, leaving his opponent with a chance to force extra holes but the putt slid by to the relief of the new champion, his caddy Paul Eaton, his dad Rich and girlfriend Ellie Smith.

Leading strokeplay scores (par 70)
1) Peter Lawrence (Woodbury Park) 70, 70, 140 (Level)*
2= David Blick (East Devon) 74, 69, 143 (+3)*
2= Ollie Amos (Exeter G&CC) 73, 70, 143 (+3)*
4= Christopher Audin (Exminster) 70, 75, 145 (+5)
4= Sam Williams (Warren) 69, 76, 145 (+5)*
6= Benjamin Sclater (Warren) 76, 70, 146 (+6)
6= Jack Jeffrey (Exeter G&CC) 70, 76, 146 (+6)
8) Tom Partridge (Exeter G&CC) 75, 72, 147 (+7)
9= Chris McGill (Warren) 74, 74, 148 (+8)
9= Ben Phillips (Honiton) 74, 74, 148 (+8)
9= Jay Scott (Tiverton) 73, 75, 158 (+8)
For all the scores click here
* Qualified for the county championship
Matchplay Semi-finals
• Lawrence lost to Williams 5&4
• Blick beat Amos 5&4
Williams beat Blick 1 hole