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Ollie Claireaux defies high winds to claim remarkable breakthrough victory at Delamere Forest
NoM: Monday, April 18th
FORMAT: 36-hole Strokeplay
There were fireworks down the stretch at Delamere Forest where two host-club players enjoyed a great battle in the second Northern Order of Merit event of season yesterday.
Ollie Claireaux eventually came through to win his first ever golfnews24.co.uk Northern Order of Merit event (The Delamere Horn), finishing three clear of Welsh international James Ashfield.
Claireaux defied the windy conditions to produce some inspired stuff at the beginning and end of the 36-hole event. He blazed a trail in the morning and was six under thru seven and then played the final ten holes in four under to keep Ashfield at bay. The runner-up birdied four holes in a row, starting at the tenth, on his way to a second-round 67 (-5).
Penwortham’s Christopher Parkinson was third on two under and his 16-point return leaves him in the early lead in the overall standings after his second place in the opener at West Lancashire. The third of the 29 Northern Order of Merit competitions takes place at Parkinson’s home club on Sunday, April 24th.
Home advantage certainly played a part for the champion, who was delighted that all his efforts to “make the step up” over the winter are bearing fruit. Earlier this month the 22-year-old, who only started playing the game nine years ago, shot 64 around Delamere in a monthly medal.
“My coach Damian Taylor (High Legh Park) and I have worked really hard during the winter,” said Claireaux.
“And it was a tough day. It was blowing a gale and there were some tough pins out there.
“Before I went out I had a rough idea what the winning score would be so thought I had done a lot of the hard work in the first six holes. At Delamere you can post some big scores by going after some pins so I made sure I was very disciplined with my process and hit spots I was aiming for.”
Claireaux made a sensational start, birdieing the first four and then eagling the seventh where he fired a seven iron to 12 feet and sunk the putt.
From there on in he played percentage golf, amassing 10 pars and one bogey to record an opening 67 and leave himself two ahead at halfway. Caldy’s Josh Sims was next best while another Delamere Forest player – Richard Galley – was the only other member of the 59-strong field to break par in the morning (71).
Claireaux’s opening to the second round was in complete contrast to what had happened just a few hours earlier. A three-putt at the long par four opener brought him back to four under overall and it got worse as he also bogeyed the third.
The Delamere player admitted at this point “dark thoughts” were entering his head but there was plenty of positivity to be gained from his par at the long par three, fourth. He went through the green and got up and down from 12 yards.
It got better for him at the eighth where he capitalised on a massive drive and wedged it in to 12 feet from 140 yards. The birdie putt had two feet of break but he was delighted to see the ball disappear.
But it was the tenth that proved the springboard for a remarkable and decisive run of golf. Having sliced his drive into the gorse and then hit a provisional, Claireaux headed down the fairway worried his challenge could unravel. However he found the original tee shot halfway up a bush, chipped out, stuck his third to 25 feet and holed the par putt.
At the next he holed from a similar distance, but this time for birdie, and then sank one from 35 feet for a two at the par three 12th. His third birdie in a row would follow at the driveable short-par 13th. The hard, dry Delamere fairways carried his tee shot through the back and he chipped back to three feet before knocking it in.
The long par three 16th was proving a tough ask for the field and Claireaux became another of its victims, a bogey sending him back to six under overall.
However, there would be one more birdie left in his locker. At the par five 18th he hit his “best drive of the day” and got green-side in two before chipping to six feet and holing out for a closing two-under-par 70.