Final-green drama as Phil leads from the front
EG: Monday July 5th
There was a wire-to-wire victory for Northumberland’s Phil Ridden in the England O-35s but he went through a rollercoaster of emotions on the final green to claim his first individual national title at Thorpeness yesterday.
The 36-year-old, playing in the Logan Trophy for the first time, started the final hole on three over with a two-shot lead over his playing partner Michael Henson (Durham) and decided to play the 430-yard par four as a three-shotter to take a lost ball out of the equation.
The tight, gorse-lined fairways at the Suffolk course had wrecked many a scorecard in the 54-hole strokeplay contest but Phil’s strategy appeared to have backfired as he put his third in a greenside bunker while his playing partner was on in two after a fine drive and approach.
The City of Newcastle stalwart, who was told six over was the best score in the clubhouse after finding the sand, did well to splash out to ten feet while his opponent raced his birdie putt six-feet past. Phil then missed to close with a double bogey leaving the Rockliffe Hall golfer a chance to force a play-off.
However Henson missed his par putt to the relief of the new champion, who fittingly took home the trophy, which is named after Northumbrian golfing legend George Logan, who passed away in December at the age of 96.
The victory also completed a special, and rather long week for Phil. On Wednesday he guided the Northumberland U-18s team to glory at the Northern Counties Boys Championship, the first time they had won it in 28 years.
“It’s been a long day and a very good one,” said Phil, who was part of the City of Newcastle team that won the English Champion Club Championship in 2017 and 2019 and is also a past winner of the Lagonda Trophy (2011).
“I didn’t hit a bad tee shot all day although the putting wasn’t as good as the first two days.
“On that last hole all I knew was I was two shots ahead of Michael and with the course being so tight with gorse everywhere, I thought if I get on in three he is going to have to get a birdie to match my score.
“That said I nearly messed it up but it is fantastic to have won it.”
Phil started the final round with a three-shot advantage over his playing partner and Lincolnshire county champion Simon Richardson (Spalding).
“I hadn’t played that well,” added Phil. “In the first two rounds I chipped and putted great but then the putter wasn’t as good on the final day.”
It was good enough on the 17th though. A birdie there re-opened his two-shot lead over Henson while Richardson, Phil’s clubmate Andrew Minnikin and Ian Kenwright (Haydock Park) were all in the clubhouse one shot further back on six over.
Before that bogeys on 13 and 15 had pulled him back towards the field with Kenwright in particular having a long and nervous wait. The Lancashire player’s level-par 70 was the best round of the day.
On the Friday Phil had opened with a bogey-free, two-under-par 68, which was matched by Cambridgeshire’s Andy Grimwood (St Neots), who fell away over the weekend. Richardson, Minnikin and BB&O’s Paul McMullen (Frilford Heath) were two shots further back.
The following day Phil struggled on the front nine but a bogey-free back nine saw him close with a 72 while Henson’s 71 left him in joint second and got him into the last group for the final round with the cut coming at 15 over.