Superb Sam leads from front to secure Brabazon glory
EG: Monday, August 23rd
FORMAT: 72-hole strokeplay
After a few close shaves this season, Sam Bairstow got his hands on a ‘big one’ at Ganton with a masterful wire-to-wire victory in the English Open Strokeplay Championship.
The Yorkshireman has been hugely consistent all year without winning a major title – semi-finalist at the English Amateur and quarter-finalist at the British Amateur included – but he put that right to come out on top by two shots and claim the Brabazon Trophy.
Only a stunning effort from runner-up Zach Chegwidden (Orsett) prevented it becoming something of a procession. The Essex player, winner of the Berkshire Trophy in June, broke the course record (64) to finish on nine under.
Meanwhile the Hallowes left hander shot four rounds in the 60s and that included a bogey-free 66 on the opening day. He started the final round five clear and held his nerve superbly after discovering Chegwidden had got within two with four holes to play.
Sam said: “Beforehand me and the guys I was staying with were talking about what we thought would be the winning number and we decided on four or five under so to get to double figures was really pleasing.
“I don’t really look at scoreboards but on 15 saw he (Chegwidden) had got to nine under and it probably helped me actually because thought I better start hitting some proper golf shots rather than just feeding my way around the golf course.
“I had been trying to play par golf until that point but then the finish at Ganton is really tough so to play those last four holes in level par was also really good.”
The 23-year-old, who led going into the final round at last year’s event before finishing sixth, parred every hole on the back nine having gone out in a two-under-par 34 and reached the daunting long par 15th knowing he was in a fight.
Sam added: “My iron play all week had been really good and I was in a position where I was happy to leave myself with 200 in.”
You can’t score at Ganton without a good iron game and at the 500-yard, par four 15th he left himself with a 30-foot look at birdie before two putting and then at the 450-yard 16th put his approach to 25 feet before bagging another par.
The 17th, the 250-yard par three, is another epic test and this time his putter got himself out of trouble as he chipped to within ten feet and sunk a critical putt.
“My putting was really good inside 12 feet and over the last couple of days I holed a lot of them for birdies and pars.”
At the final hole, another long par four, he left himself 200 yards in and hit a beautful seven iron to nine feet, just missing out on a three but the title was his.
“In terms of putting four rounds together that’s probably as good as I’ve done,” added the England international, who now gets a rare opportunity to play in the Yorkshire Amateur Championship at Alwoodley, starting on August 31st.
“That first round especially. To go bogey free and shoot 66 was really nice.”
Sam led by one after 18 holes with Chegwidden also getting off to a great start. He came home in 31 to post a 67 with Mason Essam (Dartford) and Harvey Byers (Walton Heath) a further shot back.
At halfway the lead was two shots and on moving day the Yorkshire player kept pushing forward while many of his challengers struggled. Fellow Tyke Charlie Thornton was the big winner on Saturday as he got to two under with the round of the day (66).
Thornton also made a bit of a surge on Sunday with birdies at nine, 12, 13 and 14 before succumbing to the dangers of the last three holes.
Chegwidden also birdied 12, 13 and 14 to get to seven under for his round before parring in while New Zealander Jimmy Hydes, who opened with a 79, fought his way back into the tournament brilliantly. A closing 68 left him alongside Essam and England amateur champion John Gough (Stoke) in a three-way tie for third on three under.