Opens: Cheshire Cat

James Ashfield splashes out of the bunker during his remarkable 65

Red-hot James enjoys the ‘wildest’ of rides

OPENS: Saturday, July 17th

James Ashfield is making hay while the sun shines after compiling one of the most extraordinary rounds of golf seen on British soil.

Six days after the Welsh international spreadeagled the field at the Cheshire Strokeplay Championship thanks to his record-breaking 25 under par score, the Delamere Forest player yesterday won the prestigious 72-hole Cheshire Cat Open, which is played across two days at Wilmslow and Stockport.

He finished four clear of Haydock Park’s Ian Kenwright in the final reckoning, thanks in no small part to a morning 65 (-6) at Stockport.

However what makes that score truly astonishing is the 20-year-old was five over par after four holes.

He played the next 13 holes in 12 under before bogeying the last after driving into the middle of the fairway and contriving to take five.

“It was the wildest round I have ever played,” said James.

“But I am playing with good confidence at the moment so even when I was five over I knew there were a lot of birdies in the locker.”

A majestic eight iron to two feet at the par three fifth kicked his round into life and then it really cranked up at the next where he was able to reach the par five with a driver and an 8 iron, rolling one in from six feet.

After two pars his second eagle of the day looked an unlikely prospect after driving into trees at the ninth but he was able to send a low, hooking seven iron to 15 feet and again the ball dropped in three shots.

That got him back to level par for the round, a key psychological moment.

“After that start to then stand on the tenth tee level par for my round was big. I was able to almost restart the round and knew there were plenty of birdie opportunities on the back nine.”

Remarkably he didn’t birdie 10 after arrowing his approach to four feet.

1st: Double bogey (+2)
2nd: Par (+2)
3rd: Bogey (+3)
4th: Double bogey (+5)
5th: Birdie – 2ft putt holed (+4)
6th: Eagle – 6ft putt holed (+2)
7th: Par
8th: Par
9th: Eagle – 15ft putt holed (Level)
10th: Par – 4ft putt missed (Level)
11th: Par – good up and down (Level)
12th: Birdie  (-1)
13th: Birdie – 18ft putt holed (-2)
14th: Birdie – 18ft putt holed (-3)
15th: Birdie – 5ft putt holed (-4)
16th: Birdie – Chipped in (-5)
17th: Eagle – 25ft putt holed (-7)
18th: Bogey (-6)

That ‘setback’ was quickly forgotten as he rattled off five birdies in a row, culminating with a chip in from the back of the green at 16.

At the 334-yard 17th he drove the green and rolled in the eagle putt to get to seven under for his round and 12 under for the tournament.

However there would be one last twist for the British Amateur semi-finalist as he missed the target with his pitch at the last and then failed to get up and down from the bunker.

The dropped shot meant he started the final round level pegging with Kendal’s Dominic Barron Holden, who was also the halfway leader after scores of 70 and 64 at Wilmslow which meant he won the Wilmslow Crow Trophy. The 19-year-old celebrated his birthday in style with his best ever round (-8), to lead Hallamshire’s Julian Wood by one after 36 holes.

James maintained his momentum after lunch and was two under after four holes. By the 13th he was still on that score but discovered he was four shot clear overall with the Barron Holden having dropped back and he would close with a 75.

“At that point I said to myself I can’t lose from here and just kept playing steady golf. I was really in the zone. It was just really good.”

Kenwright’s level par finish saw him close on nine under, which got him into second while the new champion closed with a more ‘conventional’ 69, which also meant he took home the Stockport Salver plus 25 points in the Northern Order of Merit competition. England international Jack Brooks (The Mere) is the current leader after 14 events.

Top 10 finishers  (par 70)
1) James Ashfield (Delamere Forest) 72, 67, 65, 69, 273 (-13)
2) Ian Kenwright (Haydock Park) 67, 69, 70, 71, 277 (-9)
3) Dominic Barron Holden (Kendal) 70, 64, 70, 75, 279, (-7)
4) Julian Wood (Hallamshire) 67, 68, 74, 72, 281 (-5)
5) Ollie Brimfield (Burnham & Berrow) 71, 74, 70, 67, 282 (-4)
6) Luke Yardley (Stockport) 71, 74, 70, 67, 282 (-4)
7) Ashley Siddle (Stockport) 74, 67, 70, 71, 282 (-4)
8) Louis Sanders (Copt Heath) 68, 72, 69, 71, 283 (-3)
9) Jack Brooks (The Mere) 72, 72, 72, 68, 284 (-2)
10) Ben Brookes (Sandbach) 74, 73, 69, 69, 285 (-1)