John stands firm to complete remarkable family double
EG: Monday, August 2nd
FORMAT: 36-hole strokeplay/6 rounds of matchplay
John Gough stepped out of his little brother’s shadow to deliver a brilliant win in the English Amateur Championship at Moortown yesterday.
The Stoke Park player has quietly been having an excellent year both in the UK and while representing his College (Charlotte) in the USA.
And in West Yorkshire the 22-year-old showed considerable reslience to string together six days of consistent scoring, culminating with his one-hole victory over Australian teenager Tom Addy in a high-class final.
Conor Gough won the English Amateur two years ago aged just 16 during a remarkable two-year run. In 2018/19 he also won the British Boys and McGregor Trophy and represented GB&I in the Walker Cup and Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup.
This time around it was all about his big brother as John, supported by caddie and long-time friend Callum Farr – the man Conor beat in the 2019 English Amateur final – won the first hole of the 36-hole final with a birdie and was always ahead despite a superb post-lunch fightback from the 17-year-old Perth-based junior, who qualified to play because both his parents were born in England.
“Going into the final I felt very confident,” said the new champion. “Up until this year I hadn’t been winning and in my other two wins in the States I had been leading overnight. I said myself you are level with him (Addy) so felt very comfortable going into it.”
John arrived back in the UK just a week before the event, dually hosted by Headingley and Moortown, having won his last event before travelling over. A five shot-victory in the Palmetto Amateur in South Carolina was the perfect boost although a month of playing in the sun was not ideal preparation for what he faced in Leeds .
“When I saw the weather forecast I packed three pairs of waterproofs and it was a good job,” added John. “After the morning round on Friday I squelched back into the clubhouse to get changed.”
By yesterday the weather had calmed down compared to the deluge of two days earlier and all the Englishman’s confidence quickly became apparent as he birdied four of the first seven holes to reach the turn two up.
However it was a critical run of pars on the back nine in the morning which highlighted the strongest part of his game all week – his short game.
At the 12th he holed an eight-footer for par and then also got a four on 13 which seemed highly unlikely after driving into trees and then chipping out. But he left himself a 16-footer for par while his opponent was inside him in two. John piled on the pressure by holing out and Addy missed.
At 14 the lead was extended to three as John rolled one in from 11 feet and then increased his advantage thanks to a nine-foot birdie putt at the next just for good measure.
At lunch a bogey at 16 meant the gap was back down to three but the leader got off to the perfect start at the par five 19th.
“I had not hit a good drive all the week at the first until the afternoon of the final and managed to bomb one down between the two ditches so only had a 7 iron in and holed the putt for eagle.
“I played the two 18s as separate matches so in my head that put me one up because you only have to see what happened in the British Amateur final to know you can’t ever count anyone out.
“And he then had a stage of playing pretty flawless golf. All his irons were bang on target. Holes were being won rather than being gifted and I knew I was going to have to play some good golf to win this game.”
The Western Australian youngster was five down after 23 but went bogey free for the next 12 holes and also notched three birdies to cut the deficit to one with four holes to go.
His playing partner then missed a four-footer on 17 to close out the match before Addy smashed one down the middle at the last.
John responded superbly but was just feet from serious trouble.
“The wind had slightly changed so it wasn’t as much in your face and I thought the bunker at 330 might come into play if I really nutted one and it got a decent bounce.
“So I did consider three wood but then thought ‘no stick to the game plan’ and I ended up bombing one and the ball finished two yards short of the bunker.”
With just 114 yards to go, the long-time leader watched his opponent find the green without challenging the hole while he tried to take the spin off a 54-degree wedge approach but “hit it really nice” and the ball spun back to 16 feet.
The Aussie teenager came agonisingly close to holing from 21 feet so John knew he had two for it.
“I didn’t want to try and lag one and end up three foot short so I just envisaged the hole was one cup closer and had it (the hole) been where I imagined, it would have gone in because it finished a couple of inches short.”
Cue celebrations with his mum Fidelma, dad Paddy and auntie Shoma watching by the side of the green. Last night they all travelled back to Buckinghamshire and enjoyed a ‘quiet celebration’ at Stoke Park.
The new champion had reached the last two in great style a day earlier. He registered seven birdies in beating in-form Yorkshireman George Mason (Wath) 3&2 and in the morning was one under for his round by the time he’s done enough to take out his club-mate Taylor Paul (2&1).
In the worst of conditions on the Friday he reached the last eight at the first extra hole against Somerset’s Ollie Brimfield (Burnham & Berrow) but not before a huge scare at the 19th.
“I had 220 in for my second and it was into the wind but it was not a good number for me. My four iron goes 220 and my 3 iron is a driving iron and goes 245 so I thought ‘I can’t be long’ and hit a really good one to 35 feet. Ollie was a lot closer and as his ball was in the air it was all over the pin and I thought ‘I’m going to have to hole this putt to stay in it’.
“But Ollie came up just short.”
Brimfield chipped to ten feet while John put his long one stone dead and breathed a huge sigh of relief as his opponent lipped out for par.
That came after he was again taken all the way to the last by Cumbrian youngster Will Coxon (Carus Green) but the Stoke Park man birdied the last to seal his place in the last 16.
In the first round John edged a tight battle with Durham’s Ryan Dixon (Castle Eden), finally giving himself some breathing space by birdieing 15 to go two up and he eventually won 2&1.
Rounds of 73 at Moortown and 69 at Headingley meant the soon-to-be champion qualified for the matchplay stages in 12th, four behind surprise top seed Dominic Barron Holden (Kendal). The Cumbrian youngster then lost in the first round to Warwickshire’s Sam Easterbrook but the openess of the competition was highlighted by the fact just nine shots separated the top 64 in the 36-hole strokeplay section.